Congress has a significant role to play in defending Americans and our information space against foreign & domestic manipulation. Democratic leaders in Congress have proposed a number of common-sense reforms to combat misinformation, improve transparency, and protect user privacy — many of which have been blocked by Republican members of the U.S. Senate:

  • The For the People Act – This bill addresses voter access, election integrity, election security, political spending, and ethics for the three branches of government.
  • The For the People Act includes a version of the Honest Ads Act, a bill that expands source disclosure requirements for political advertisements by
    • (1) establishing that paid internet and paid digital communications may qualify as “public communications” or “electioneering communications” that may be subject to such requirements, and
    • (2) imposing additional requirements relating to the form of such source disclosures and the information contained within.
    • The bill also requires certain online platform companies to maintain publicly available records about qualified political advertisements that have been purchased on their platforms.
  • The Safeguarding Against Fraud, Exploitation, Threats, Extremism and Consumer Harms (SAFE TECH) Act would force online service providers to finally address harms or face potential civil liability. It does so by making clear that Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act:
    • Doesn’t apply to ads or other paid content – ensuring that platforms cannot continue to profit as their services are used to target vulnerable consumers;
    • Doesn’t bar injunctive relief – allowing victims to seek court orders where misuse of a provider’s services is likely to cause irreparable harm;
    • Doesn’t impair enforcement of civil rights laws – maintaining the vital and hard-fought protections from discrimination even when activities or services are mediated by internet platforms;
    • Doesn’t interfere with laws that address stalking/cyber-stalking or harassment and intimidation on the basis of protected classes– ensuring that victims of abuse and targeted harassment can hold platforms accountable when they directly enable harmful activity;
    • Doesn’t bar wrongful death actions – allowing the family of a decedent to bring suit against platforms where they may have directly contributed to a loss of life;
    • Doesn’t bar suits under the Alien Tort Claims Act – potentially allowing victims of platform-enabled human rights violations abroad (like the survivors of the Rohingya genocide) to seek redress in U.S. courts against U.S.-based platforms.
  • The Protecting Americans from Dangerous Algorithms Act narrowly amends Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to remove liability immunity for a platform if its algorithm is used to amplify or recommend content directly relevant to a case involving interference with civil rights; neglect to prevent interference with civil rights; and in cases involving acts of international terrorism.
  • The Countering Russian Influence Through Interagency Coordination And Leadership Act:
    • This bill establishes two bodies to address malign foreign influence, the Russia Influence Group and the Commission on Countering Global Malign Influence.
    • The Russia Influence Group shall (1) coordinate and provide guidance on interagency efforts to counter malign Russian influence in Europe and the United States, (2) regularly meet with federal departments and agencies to address specific malign Russian influence tools such as election interference and disinformation, (3) work with U.S. embassies and international actors to counter malign Russian influence in foreign countries, and (4) report to Congress a strategy to counter malign Russian influence.
    • The Commission on Countering Global Malign Influence shall (1) examine global malign influence from sources such as China and Iran, (2) conduct a review of U.S. preparedness to counter such malign influence, and (3) issue a final report on its findings. The commission shall terminate six months after the report is submitted.
  • The Digital Citizenship and Media Literacy Act (links to House and Senate versions) – To promote digital citizenship and media literacy.
  • The Bot Disclosure and Accountability Act of 2019 (links to House and Senate versions) – To protect the right of the American public under the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States to receive news and information from disparate sources by regulating the use of automated software programs intended to impersonate or replicate human activity on social media.
  • The Deceptive Practices and Voter Intimidation Prevention Act of 2019:
    • This bill generally prohibits deceptive practices, false statements, and voter interference regarding federal elections. Specifically, the bill prohibits any person, within 60 days before an election, from communicating, causing to be communicated, or producing for communication certain information on voting, if the person (1) knows such information to be materially false, and (2) has the intent to impede or prevent another person from exercising the right to vote in an election.
    • The bill also prohibits false statements regarding public endorsements and hindering, interfering with, or preventing voting or registering to vote.
    • A private right of action for preventive relief is established for persons aggrieved by violations of these prohibitions. Criminal penalties are also established for violations. If the Department of Justice (DOJ) receives a credible report that materially false information has been or is being communicated in violation of these prohibitions, DOJ must communicate to the public accurate information designed to correct the materially false information.
  • The Defending Each and Every Person from False Appearances by Keeping Exploitation Subject to Accountability Act of 2019 – To combat the spread of disinformation through restrictions on deep-fake video alteration technology.
  • The Deep Fake Detection Prize Competition Act – To authorize the Director of the National Science Foundation to establish prize competitions related to deep fake detection technology.

In order to combat online disinformation and protect the integrity of the 2020 elections, Senate Republicans must work with Democrats to pass these crucial reforms. If you have one, call your Republican Senator(s) at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to support these crucial pieces of legislation.

In the absence of Republican action, here’s what individuals can do to be vigilant:

DNC Counter Disinformation Recommendations for the General Public