'They should be held accountable': White House reviews platforms' misinformation liability

Matthew Brown
USA TODAY
  • Section 230 protections for social media companies is under review, related to COVID misinformation.
  • Communications director Kate Bedingfield says the White House: 'they should be held accountable.'
  • Tensions have run high between White House, Facebook since commends from surgeon general, Biden.

WASHINGTON – The White House is assessing whether social media platforms are legally liable for misinformation spread on their platforms, White House communication director Kate Bedingfield said Tuesday.

"We're reviewing that, and certainly, they should be held accountable," she confirmed during an interview on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." 

Bedingfield specified the White House is examining how misinformation fits into the liability protections granted by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields online platforms from being responsible for what is posted by third parties on their sites.

President backpedals:Biden reverses course on Facebook, says platform isn't 'killing people' with vaccine misinformation

Relations are tense between the Biden administration and social media platforms, specifically Facebook, over the spread of misinformation online.

Misconceptions and distrust of information about the coronavirus and vaccines have hindered the country's pandemic response, a challenge the administration is determined to address.

True or false? Biden said COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on social media is ‘killing people.' These are the biggest myths spreading online.

Friday, President Joe Biden said Facebook is "killing people," an assertion he softened Monday. Other officials within the administration have expressed public frustration that misinformation and vaccine hesitancy has created a "pandemic of the unvaccinated."

The White House resisted claims that it is trying to direct the moderation of content on Facebook, though aides, including Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, said they are in "regular contact" with social media platforms about content posted on their sites.

“We are not at war with any social media platform, we are at war with the virus," White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday during a briefing. The White House has not asked Facebook to take down any individual social media posts, she said, but the administration monitors publicly available data on what is trending on the platform. 

"It's up to social media platforms to determine what their application is of their own rules and regulations," she said.

Follow Matthew Brown online @mrbrownsir.

Is banning Trump from Facebook a First Amendment issue? Clarence Thomas, other conservatives say it is