California lawmakers are targeting doctors and websites that promote COVID-19 misinformation in the latest batch of bills introduced by a group of Democrats pushing for tougher vaccination laws in the state.
Assembly Bill 2098 by Assemblyman Evan Low (D-San Jose) would make it easier for the California Medical Council to discipline doctors who promote COVID-19 misinformation as conduct unprofessional. Low said the bill will make it clear lawmakers want the state’s ailing medical commission to prosecute doctors who peddle inaccurate information about the coronavirus.
Lawmakers have expressed frustration with the slow medical board complaint process, which has allowed a handful of state doctors to promote conspiracy theories and treatments throughout the pandemic.
“Spreading false information – inaccurate information about COVID-19 – contradicts accountability [of doctors] and threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk,” Low said Tuesday.
Nick Sawyer, an emergency doctor who started a group called No License for Disinformation, said the bill would affect a small group of doctors who spread blatantly inaccurate and extreme information that a doctor knows to be false or that they should knowing how to be false. given their medical training.
“This is not a call for a free speech police. This is a call for the public to be protected from the dangerous misinformation that patients tell us every day in our emergency departments,” Sawyer said.
Senate Bill 1018 by Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) would require online platforms such as Facebook to publicly disclose how their algorithms work and share data for research purposes to better understand the spread of the virus. disinformation. The bill is inspired by federal legislation that would require social media platforms to publicly disclose their corporate policies, key metrics and data to combat hate, misinformation, extremism, harassment and bullying. foreign interference online.
“Ideally, we would have a national solution to this problem. However, we cannot wait,” Pan said. “Transparency allows the public to make informed decisions, and lawmakers and researchers need the necessary information so that we can hold online platforms accountable and also set standards.”
Nathaniel Persily, director of Stanford University’s Cyber Policy Center, said Pan’s bill would help balance the “information ecosystem” currently controlled by a handful of companies.
“The bottom line here is that we can’t live in a world where Facebook and Google know everything about us and we don’t know anything about them,” Persily said. “These big information monopolies have really lost the right to secrecy.”
Both bills were introduced on Monday, but many details outlining how they would regulate online platforms and strengthen disciplinary action against doctors who spread misinformation are yet to be defined in the legislation.
The bills were introduced as part of a broader effort by a group of Democratic lawmakers who this year formed a vaccine task force to strengthen immunization laws. The legislation has sparked a contentious debate about how far the state should go to push unvaccinated residents to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) Assembly House Bill of 1993 would require employees and independent contractors to be vaccinated against COVID-19 as a condition of employment, unless they receive medical an exemption based on a medical condition, disability or religious beliefs.
Assembly Bill 1797 by Assemblyman Akilah Weber (D-San Diego) would make it easier for California school officials to verify student immunization records by expanding access to a database statewide vaccination. Senate Bill 866 by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would allow children 12 and older to be vaccinated without parental consent. And Pan’s SB 871 would require the COVID-19 vaccine for all school children in the state.