Luján targets misinformation on social media

Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal

Sen. Ben Ray Luján is targeting misinformation on social media platforms with a recent bill introduced in the Senate, and a series of letters sent to top executives at the companies.

Last month, the New Mexico Democrat teamed up with 25 other lawmakers to write the CEOs of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Nextdoor about Spanish-language misinformation that is circulating on those platforms. He also cosponsored a bill with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., that would prohibit social media companies from using algorithms or other technology to target people with misinformation, even if it aligns with their search history.

The bill, which would strip those platforms of immunity from lawsuits based on content created by their users, would only apply to misinformation during a public health emergency.

“As COVID-19 cases rise among the unvaccinated, so has the amount of misinformation surrounding vaccines on social media,” Luján said in an interview. “I’ve been clear, … this must stop because lives are at stake here.”

Klobuchar called the legislation a “long-term solution.”

“These are some of the biggest, richest companies in the world and they must do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation,” she said in a statement.

Luján said the bill won’t curtail free speech.

“Our legislation does not limit or censor free speech,” he said. “It makes social media companies accountable in the same way as anyone else if they would contribute to harmful and deadly content.”

Klobuchar and Luján also led the effort to gather lawmakers to call out social media executives for not doing enough to stop Spanish-language disinformation.

In the letter, the roughly two-dozen lawmakers said “there is significant evidence that your Spanish-language moderation efforts are not keeping pace, with widespread accounts of viral content aiming to sow political division, promote vaccine hoaxes, and spread election misinformation.”

The lawmakers asked the companies to release information about their efforts combatting misinformation, such as how many employees or contractors they have moderating content in each language.

“This is just something that’s not getting the attention of the social media companies and that’s why I am coming forward, to bring attention,” Luján said.

Facebook said on its website that they have removed over a billion fake accounts and have a team of fact-checkers to try to remove or flag misinformation.

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