House Democrats are pressing cable and streaming services over their decisions to host channels that the lawmakers accuse of spreading misinformation and conspiracy theories that lead to “real world harm.”
Reps. Anna EshooAnna Georges EshooHillicon Valley: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. | YouTube study | Amazon lawsuit | Trump comments YouTube still pushing white supremacist videos: study Hillicon Valley: Ballots go out in Amazon union battle in Alabama | Hackers breach, attempt to poison Florida city’s water supply | Facebook to remove posts with false claims about vaccines MORE (Calif.) and Jerry McNerneyGerlad (Jerry) Mark McNerneyHillicon Valley: Judge’s ruling creates fresh hurdle for TikTok | House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks | Biden campaign urges Facebook to remove Trump posts spreading ‘falsehoods’ House passes bills to secure energy sector against cyberattacks Trump administration signs AI research and development agreement with the UK MORE (Calif.), senior members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, sent letters to the companies on Monday questioning their “ethical principles” involved in deciding which channels to carry and when to take action against a channel.
“Some purported news outlets have long been misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm,” they wrote.
“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 letter specifically calls out Newsmax, One America Network (OANN) and Fox News.
A Fox News Media spokesperson said the letter “sets a terrible precedent.”
“As the most watched cable news channel throughout 2020, FOX News Media provided millions of Americans with in-depth reporting, breaking news coverage and clear opinion. For individual members of Congress to highlight political speech they do not like and demand cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination sets a terrible precedent,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
The lawmakers also asked for information about the number of users who tuned into the stations in the weeks leading up to the election and the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.
Eshoo and McNerney sent letters to traditional cable providers, including Verizon and Comcast, as well as tech companies that provide channels as part of streaming services including Amazon, Google, Apple, Roku and Hulu.
Amazon said the company is reviewing the letter.
Spokespeople for the other networks and the providers did not immediately respond for comment.
The letter is setting the scene for what will likely be a contentious Wednesday committee hearing about “disinformation and extremism in the media.”
Democrats and Republicans have split on the issue in the past, notably in October over tech platforms’ decision to limit the spread of a New York Post story that included allegations about Hunter Biden, the son of now-President BidenJoe BidenBiden to hold moment of silence for 500K COVID-19 deaths Publix offers employees who get COVID-19 vaccine a 5 store gift card Schumer says he’s working to find votes to confirm Biden’s OMB pick MORE.
The story quickly drew skepticism over its sourcing and findings, but when the tech giants clamped down on the spread of it online, Republicans widely criticized the companies of censoring content and an anti-conservative bias.
Republicans are expected to again bring up the controversy over the Post story on Wednesday.
A Republican spokesperson for the committee was not immediately available for comment when asked about Eshoo and McNerney’s letters.
Democrats, however, may focus on the boosting of election misinformation and the role it may have played in leading to the deadly insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6. The letter Eshoo and McNerney sent Monday highlights ways the stations spread false claims about the election, as well as the way the riot at the Capitol was covered.
The letter also discusses reports of misinformation about COVID-19 reportedly shared by Newsmax, OANN and Fox News.
–Updated at 12:36 p.m.