California Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff sent letters to Amazon and Facebook on Wednesday urging the companies to remove content promoting alleged COVID-19 misinformation.
The letters, addressed to Amazon’s Andy Jassy and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, asked the companies to take “immediate action” against materials promoting “anti-vaccine conspiracies” and “vaccine misinformation.” Schiff also requested the companies provide information on their content removal practices and policies to prevent the spread of alleged misinformation.
“Research has shown that combatting anti-vaccine conspiracies by posing factual and counter-factual information as opposing, but equal viewpoints is ineffective at combatting misinformation and disinformation,” Schiff wrote. (RELATED: Twitter Enlists Users To Flag ‘Misleading’ Tweets As Part Of Misinformation Crackdown)
Vaccine hesitancy stands between us and the end of this pandemic.
And companies like @amazon and @facebook must do far more to tackle the viral spread of misinformation online.
We need transparency. And we need accountability.
Lives are on the line.
Read my letters. ⤵ pic.twitter.com/yo0iBcTw2p
— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) September 9, 2021
The lawmaker argued that Amazon’s algorithms boosted sensationalist and misleading products, pointing to a study by the University of Washington which found that for vaccine-related searches on Amazon, over 10% of the results contained alleged health misinformation. Schiff accused both Amazon and Facebook of profiting off “dangerous” misinformation related to the COVID-19 vaccine, which he claimed directly contributed to deaths from the coronavirus.
Anti-vaccine content produced $1.1 billion in revenue for Facebook, Schiff said.
The letter echoes a request made by Sen. Elizabeth Warren on Wednesday, in which the senator asked Amazon to remove books promoting information and theories about the COVID-19 pandemic and vaccines she deemed misleading.
Schiff also requested the tech giants provide answers to a number of questions concerning their content moderation policies in order to “identify potential needs for federal regulation.” The lawmaker argued the companies exerted significant influence over public access to information, and needed to be regulated in order to prevent them from facilitating the spread of “misinformation.”
“My initial inclination is to explore narrowing Section 230 and creating a safe harbor only if companies use best practices,” Schiff said in an interview with The Washington Post. “And in the case of the social media companies, move away from amplifying for engagement with all the societal harm that that has caused.”
When reached for comment, Amazon did not say whether it planned to change its content policies or provide answers to Schiff’s questions, but affirmed its commitment to enforcing its guidelines.
“We are constantly evaluating the books we list to ensure they comply with our content guidelines, and as an additional service to customers, at the top of relevant search results pages we link to the CDC advice on COVID and protection measures,” an Amazon spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar introduced legislation in July that would strip Section 230 liability protections from social media platforms that promoted “health misinformation.”
Facebook did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated to include comment from an Amazon spokesperson.
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