Facebook and Twitter are coming under increasing pressure to oust anti-vaxxers from the platforms.
This week, Senators Amy Klobuchar and Ben Ray Luján, Democrats from Minnesota, strongly suggested to both companies that they should ban at least 12 of the most prominent individuals who allegedly spread falsehoods about vaccines -- including Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
“For too long, social media platforms have failed to adequately protect Americans by not taking sufficient action to prevent the spread of vaccine disinformation online,” the lawmakers said in a letter to Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Twitter's Jack Dorsey. “As we continue to distribute and administer vaccines across the country, your platforms must step up and take action against people that are spreading content that can harm the health of Americans.”
The letter references the Center for Countering Digital Hate's recent report, “The Disinformation Dozen,” which concludes that 65% of anti-vaccine content appearing earlier this year on Facebook and Twitter stemmed from posts by 12 individuals, including Kennedy and his Children's Health Defense.
Klobuchar and Luján ask the CEOs whether they're aware of the 12 sources “that appear to be repeatedly spreading false or misleading information about the coronavirus vaccine efficacy.”
The lawmakers also ask the companies about their policies regarding vaccine misinformation, and how those standards are enforced.
Facebook clearly is aware of the Children's Health Defense. In fact, Facebook is currently being sued by the organization for allegedly “censoring” and disparaging it over vaccine-related posts.
In other words, while some lawmakers think Facebook hasn't done enough to police its platforms, organizations like the Children's Health Defense are saying in court that Facebook goes too far.
Klobuchar and Luján aren't the only ones urging Facebook to de-platform people who allegedly spread false information about vaccines.
Several weeks ago, a dozen state attorneys general urged Facebook and Twitter to aggressively combat falsehoods about the COVD-19 vaccines -- including by banning anti-vaxxers.
At the same time, some conservatives are increasingly arguing that Facebook, Twitter and other large platforms should exercise less control over the material on their platforms.
Earlier this month, for instance, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently stunned the media industry by writing that Congress could attempt to prohibit web companies from exercising editorial judgment by deciding what content to allow on their platforms.
“The similarities between some digital platforms and common carriers or places of public accommodation may give legislators strong arguments for similarly regulating digital platforms,” Thomas opined.
Years of precedent say any attempt by the government to prevent media companies from exercising editorial control would violate the First Amendment. But if Thomas could convince four other judges to agree with him, those prior decisions could be overturned.