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Aspen Institute Commission Urges Tech Platforms To Censor Misinformation ‘Superspreaders’

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A left-leaning research institute urged tech companies Monday to take additional steps to combat misinformation platforms, including censoring certain accounts.

The Aspen Institute’s Commission on Information Disorder released a report Monday detailing several proposals for how best to combat “misinformation” and “disinformation” online and in media. The recommendations included content moderation practices targeted at individuals or accounts deemed to be “superspreaders” of misinformation.

“Harmful misinformation posted by influential accounts should be prioritized for moderation and addressed (e.g., through labels, downranking, or removal),” the Commission wrote, pointing to examples of harmful misinformation such as inaccurate claims regarding public health as well as “threats against democracy.”

The Aspen Institute, a left-leaning research institute funded by major philanthropic organizations including the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation, staffed its Commission on Information Disorder with almost exclusively left-wing individuals. The Commission included Katie Couric, Prince Harry, Kathryn Murdoch and Chris Krebs, who previously headed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Conservative groups have criticized the organization for appointing partisan members to the Commission, believing it to be motivated by ideology.

The Commission’s report detailed several strategies tech platforms could employ to reduce the spread of misinformation, including demonetizing content, manually reviewing posts from “influencers with repeat bad behavior,” and “strikes” policies with escalating responses for each violation of platform rules. The Commission also urged tech platforms to take action against web domains deemed to host content with “harmful misinformation,” including blocking them altogether.

“These domains should be subject to the same kinds of strikes policies, with escalating enforcement from interstitial labeling, to downranking, to suspensions (disallowing links to that domain) of varying lengths,” the report read.

The Commission recommended overhauling Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to remove liability protections from paid advertising. The report advocates for reclassifying content boosted by algorithms as the speech of the tech platform rather than a user, therefore exempting it from Section 230 liability protection.

The Commission also called on Congress to create “an independent non-profit organization, led by publicly-appointed non-partisan organizations working at the intersection of technology, democracy, and civil rights, mandated to invest in systemic misinformation counter-measures.” The Commission proposed funding the organization through taxes or fines levied by the Federal Trade Commission, and it said such a group should “develop systemic misinformation countermeasures” such as education initiatives and local media “protections” against misinformation.

The report included recommendations for the White House to create a “dedicated team to define the disinformation problem and to clearly articulate desired objectives, leadership, responsibilities, authorities, and capabilities.”

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