WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, announced that he has introduced legislation to create a COVID-19 Misinformation & Disinformation Task Force amid reports of rising misinformation and disinformation related to the Coronavirus pandemic. The Task Force will be charged with coordinating the government’s analysis of and response to false and misleading information that conflicts with official government health guidance and pandemic response efforts. Misinformation and disinformation on Coronavirus has become so widespread that the World Health Organization has labeled this problem an “infodemic.” U.S. Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Jack Reed (D-RI) joined Peters in introducing the bill.
“At a time when most Michiganders and Americans are receiving their information about the Coronavirus pandemic online, combating disinformation and misinformation is crucial to ensuring that everyone can follow appropriate health guidance and stay safe,” said Senator Peters. “This commonsense legislation will create a coordinated response to safeguard Americans against bad actors who seek to mislead the public about the most effective ways to protect ourselves from this highly contagious virus.”
“Adversaries continue to target our democracy with sophisticated information campaigns designed to divide Americans and undermine our political system. Experts, including the World Health Organization, have reported an increase in misinformation and disinformation during the pandemic,” said Senator Klobuchar. “One of the best ways we can fight back is to give people the tools they need to identify false information. This bill would establish a task force at the Department of Homeland Security that would help coordinate the analysis of false information and develop tools to help Americans combat it.”
“America’s elections should be decided by the American voters, not foreign disinformation campaigns,” said Senator Reed. “We know foreign adversaries use information warfare campaigns to try to amplify panic and undermine faith in U.S. government institutions. This legislation would leverage a whole of government response to counter misinformation and disinformation surrounding the pandemic and help ensure the American people can discern fact from fiction. Increasing public vigilance when it comes to COVID-19 – including vetting information you read online and promoting information literacy – is in the nation’s best interest.”
The COVID-19 Misinformation & Disinformation Task Force Act of 2020 would create a COVID-19 Misinformation & Disinformation Task Force led by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency (CISA). The Task Force would consist of representatives from a variety of federal agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security, State Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The Task Force would be responsible for creating an awareness campaign to help inform the public of the risks of misinformation and disinformation related to the pandemic, including explanations of how foreign adversaries may use the pandemic to change American’s opinions or cause panic. The awareness campaign would also illustrate the challenges with how misinformation can also be spread unintentionally. To ensure transparency, the Task Force will be required to make an unclassified summary of its work publicly available and brief Congress every 30 days.