Erin Hutchins

Volume 73, Issue 5, 1539-1562

During the COVID-19 pandemic, communities congregated in online spaces more than ever before. While some people found solidarity online, many others found snippets of false information regarding COVID-19’s origin, transmission, and preventative measures. Inaccurate public health information originated long before the COVID-19 pandemic, but it thrived as the uncertainty around daily living dragged on. The pandemic prompted a conversation about who, if anyone, is responsible for deciphering and regulating the spread of false and misleading information. This Note presents two methods in which inaccurate information can be redressed. First, Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act—which provides sweeping immunity for social media platforms—could be carved out to impose liability if inaccurate public health information is available on public forums. In addition to, or in lieu of, this approach, online platforms could be held liable if they do not develop a sufficient content-moderation system. Second, social media platforms could use Corporate Social Responsibility as a tool to amend their existing policies to remove false information, flag misleading information as potentially untruthful or confusing, and flag truthful information as accurate and verified by third-party fact-checkers. Unflagged articles and posts would alert the user that the information has yet to be rigorously reviewed. No solution should work alone; rather, all can work together to coerce social media platforms to be receptive and answerable to their users and broader society.