Trahan Calls on Colleagues to Fight Climate Misinformation on Earth Day with Digital Services Oversight & Safety Act
Washington, April 21, 2022
LOWELL, MA – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03) called on her colleagues to join her in supporting the Digital Services Oversight and Safety Act, comprehensive transparency and oversight legislation that is necessary in the fight against climate misinformation spreading on social media. Trahan’s most recent call comes as communities across the nation prepare to celebrate Earth Day tomorrow.
“Social media companies grandstand about their ideals and visions for the future but rake in obscene profits thanks in large part to the spread of climate misinformation on their platforms. As climate change rages, it’s imperative that enforcers, researchers, and the public have every resource available to tackle this crisis head on,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “That includes requiring transparency and oversight of digital platforms that operate as misinformation hotbeds. As we celebrate Earth Day, I encourage my colleagues to join me in supporting the Digital Services Oversight and Safety Act so we leave no stone unturned in the fight to save our planet.”
Social media platforms notoriously allow for microtargeting of pro-fossil fuel ads and amplify climate misinformation. A new report issued by environmental group Friends of the Earth today highlights in glaring detail the ways social media companies are failing to rein in the spread of climate mis- and disinformation. Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook performed the worst in measurements of their climate misinformation policies, but even “top-scoring” YouTube and Pinterest hardly scored above 50%.
Despite the trove of evidence, the federal government still lacks the power to hold these platforms accountable for their broken promises and shine a light on their opaque practices. To tackle climate misinformation in time to prevent the most catastrophic impacts, it is imperative that federal enforcers, academic researchers, and members of the public have more insight into the way social media platforms curate and amplify content, as well as the extent to which they uphold their promises to users.
The Digital Services Oversight and Safety Act (DSOSA) creates the Bureau of Digital Services Oversight and Safety at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) tasked with investigating systemic risks on online platforms and using their findings to issue transparency requirements and guidance on content neutral safety processes and design features. The spread of climate disinformation impacts civic discourse, public security, and the safety of vulnerable and marginalized communities and would therefore be captured under DSOSA’s systemic risks framework.
Trahan introduced the legislation with Representatives Adam Schiff (CA-28) and Sean Casten (IL-06) in February. Since then, DSOSA has garnered support from key climate change groups, including Friends of the Earth, Union for Concerned Scientists, Earthjustice, ClimateVoice, Center for Countering Digital Hate, Greenpeace USA, The Climate Reality Project, Center for Biological Diversity, Environmental Defense Fund, The Center for Climate Integrity, 350.org, Clean Creatives, Fossil Free Media, Environmental Working Group, and Center for International Environmental Law.
“We applaud Representative Trahan’s legislation to require social media companies to disclose data on disinformation. For too long, Americans have been forced to deal with Big Tech’s unregulated power and its growing list of harms, like climate change disinformation,” said Michael Khoo, Friends of the Earth Climate Disinformation Campaigner. “From airlines to automobiles to food processing, American industries have had a strong history of reporting dangers, and big tech should be no exception. The open reporting Representative Trahan calls for is what has made American industries safer and more successful over time. We must end the wild west privileges of social media companies and return to basic transparency.”
“This is an urgently needed policy change that is critical in addressing climate change and many other issues. The dark stain of disinformation online is poisoning our democracy and undermining our nation's ability to move forward with innovative science-based solutions to urgent problems,” said Andrew A. Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.
DSOSA is supported by a wide range of additional outside groups.
A fact sheet on the bill can be accessed HERE.
A section-by-section summary can be accessed HERE.
The text of the bill as introduced can be accessed HERE.