Democrats ask TV providers about role in spreading misinformation

Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., speaks during a rally in the Capitol Building to call on the Senate to vote on House Democrats’ prescription drugs and health care package on Wednesday, May 15, 2019.

Tom Williams | CQ-Roll Call, Inc. | Getty Images

Lawmakers are looking beyond the social media companies when it comes to cracking down on misinformation.

Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., sent letters to top executives at AT&T, Verizon, Roku, Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Charter, Dish, Cox, Altice, Google parent Alphabet, and Disney-owned Hulu on Monday, urging them to address misinformation on their services. They linked disinformation and conspiracy theories to the radicalization of people who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 as lawmakers moved to affirm President Joe Biden’s victory.

“Misinformation on TV has led to our current polluted information environment that radicalizes individuals to commit seditious acts and rejects public health best practices, among other issues in our public discourse,” the lawmakers wrote in the letters.

Eshoo and McNerney asked the providers how they determine whether to carry a channel and how they attempted to manage the spread of disinformation and incitement of violence between the 2020 election and January 6 insurrection. Eshoo and McNerney identified Fox News, Newsmax and One America News Network (OANN) as channels that aired misinformation in the lead-up to the riot and have spread false information about Covid-19.

The lawmakers also asked the companies if they planned to continue carrying the channels and why.

The letters show that lawmakers are still looking to hold traditional information sources accountable while they grill executives from newer platforms like Facebook and Twitter over their roles in amplifying lies. It comes ahead of a hearing hosted by a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee (on which both Eshoo and McNerney sit) scheduled for Wednesday entitled, “Fanning the Flames: Disinformation and Extremism in the Media.”

Representatives for the companies named in this article did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the letters. Comcast declined to comment.

Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, parent company of CNBC.

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