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Friday, December 8th, 2023

Reps. Spanberger, Katko introduce bill to combat online disinformation

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U.S. Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA) and John Katko (R-NY) introduced a bill to protect against the influence of foreign actors that seek to sow political division through online disinformation campaigns.

Foreign adversaries — such as Russia, China, and Iran — continue to exploit existing vulnerabilities in U.S. national security, including by influencing Americans directly and infiltrating U.S. public discourse.

The Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) states that political ads, issue advocacy, and content funded or directed by a foreign principal and intended to influence the U.S. government or the American people must be disclosed to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). But this often does not extend to social media.

The Foreign Agent Disclaimer Enhancement (FADE) Act would require that disclaimers attributing political content to a foreign principal are embedded on the social media post. The disclaimers would remain with a post whenever it is shared. These disclaimer requirements apply to the internet and any political communications directed at the United States.

“The United States must be on guard against those who seek to sow division and spread false information. Disclaimers on misleading, foreign-backed social media posts are often non-existent, particularly when content is shared or linked. In these instances, social media works as a rumor mill for disinformation,” Spanberger said. “The FADE Act would help stop foreign adversaries like China, Russia, and Iran from disseminating propaganda and outright lies across Americans’ social media feeds. By requiring foreign disclaimers within the actual content of social media posts, we can make sure the public knows the origins of information — and we can strengthen our democracy for the better.”

The FADE Act would also require DOJ to notify online platforms if a foreign agent does not meet disclaimer requirements for posts on their platforms. In these cases, it would require the platform to remove the materials and inform recipients that the information was disseminated by a foreign agent.

“Our nation’s enemies have used social media as a vehicle to deploy disinformation and interfere in our elections. With this in mind, I’m joining Rep. Spanberger in introducing the Foreign Agent Disclaimer Enhancement (FADE) Act,” Katko said. “This legislation would establish enforceable tools to ensure visible disclaimers are included in political posts from foreign agents. I urge my colleagues to support this measure to increase transparency, reduce the spread of disinformation, and protect our democratic processes from foreign influence.”

The FADE Act is endorsed by the Campaign Legal Center and Issue One.