Democratic Lawmakers Call Out TV Companies Over Misinformation Spread

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The pair asked cable, satellite and streaming TV companies about conspiracy-related content ahead of a Feb. 24 hearing.

Two senior members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology urged television companies to take action against misinformation and conspiracy theories promoted on their networks.

In a letter Monday, Reps. Anna Eshoo, D-Calif., and Jerry McNerney, D-Calif., called out 12 cable, satellite and streaming TV companies for having “done nothing” in response to mis- and disinformation aired by various outlets in recent years. In the letter, the lawmakers cited an increase in extremist content on television airwaves, especially in the “right-wing media ecosystem” and linked the phenomena to the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt by supporters of former President Donald Trump.

“Nearly half of Americans get their news primarily from TV. However, not all TV news sources are the same. Some purported news outlets have long been misinformation rumor mills and conspiracy theory hotbeds that produce content that leads to real harm,” the lawmakers 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.”

While social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook eventually took action to curb potentially violence-inducing content, including a ban on Trump-operated social accounts, television companies have received less scrutiny. That could change Feb. 24, with the Communications and Technology Subcommittee hosting a hearing on disinformation and extremism in the media.  

The letters were addressed to AT&T, Verizon, Roku, Amazon, Apple, Comcast, Charter, Dish, Cox, Altice, Alphabet and Hulu. In the letters, the lawmakers ask television companies to respond to several questions, including what moral or ethical principles they apply when deciding which channels to carry; what content guidelines they employ; what steps they took to monitor and respond to misinformation regarding the election and in the weeks after, and others. The lawmakers seek written responses by March 8. 

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