Dr. Richard Pan Introduces Measure to Level the Playing Field Between Social Media Companies and Traditional News Outlets

One in Five Americans Get Their News from Social Media Sources, Over 50 Percent of Teens Get Their News from YouTube

January 30, 2020

SACRAMENTO – As more Americans turn to social media as their primary news source, and as social media companies obtain larger profits from advertising dollars, Dr. Richard Pan has introduced a measure to hold social media companies to the same truth in advertising liability standards that traditional media outlets must adhere to, and bring accountability for the content social media companies recommend to users through their algorithms.

“Newspapers, radio and television are all held accountable for the accuracy in advertisements that they run, and it makes no sense that social media companies are shielded from such standards,” said Dr. Richard Pan, State Senator representing the Sacramento region. “Americans are turning to social media as their primary news source more than ever and the companies should assume some of the same responsibilities as traditional news sources.”

SB 896, which is currently in “spot” language form, will be amended to bring online platforms into alignment with traditional print and radio broadcasters. The proposed bill would provide a process for correction and/or removal of false, misleading, or defamatory material distributed by online internet service providers, social media platforms, and other digital platforms. This bill would level the playing field between electronic and traditional outlets by requiring all distributors of news content to be held accountable for the spread of false or misleading information, either through advertisements or content recommended by a company’s algorithm. Similar to the notice and retraction remedy already required of print and radio broadcasters, SB 896 will provide for a similar mechanism for notice and correction/removal of such content on online platforms.

“As the home of Silicon Valley, California has a responsibility to lead the way,” said Dr. Richard Pan. “When there is a defect in any product on the market, companies that produce the product must correct it; and when they will not, Government needs to act to protect the public. Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has asked for new Internet regulations on harmful content, election protection, privacy and data protection, and data portability, and I agree.  SB 896 ensures all media have the same 1st Amendment protections and responsibilities.”

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act of 1996 states, “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.” However, this law was never designed to provide immunity for all content and conduct in cyberspace, but rather to encourage platforms to take steps to moderate content in good faith — it was not intended as a get-out-of-jail-free card in perpetuity. And certainly, in 1996, Congress did not envision the existence of social media and how it can be manipulated to spread damaging disinformation and to sow division among Americans.



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