The Federal Bureau of Investigation will use a new law signed into law in May to target websites that “deliberately publish false, misleading, or deceptive news” in an effort to help protect Americans from “malicious” content.
The law, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced Monday, is meant to “ensure that people have access to information they need to make informed choices about their health care and financial decisions.”
While the law specifically prohibits “false, misleading or deceptive information” on social media, the FCC is also “developing a rule to regulate the dissemination of information on social platforms that is misleading, deceptive, or otherwise inaccurate,” the agency said in a statement.
“This rule is expected to apply to news, opinion, information, and information service providers that publish false or misleading information, but does not prohibit the dissemination or posting of information that is in the public interest.”
In a separate announcement, the FTC said it would launch a public outreach campaign to make the case that consumers should trust their own information.
The FTC said its new rule will be “focused on the information consumers need to understand and make informed decisions about health care, their financial situation, and their safety.”
The agency said it has “received hundreds of comments from consumers” about the proposed rule.
“While the FTC is aware that social media platforms have become an important platform for people to share their stories, we have a responsibility to make sure the information is accurate and that it is shared fairly,” the FTC’s statement said.
The new rule also requires online services to ensure that users are aware that their content is not “a solicitation for illegal activity or other conduct that is harmful to the health or safety of others.”
The new rules are not a direct response to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
But the FCC’s announcement, along with a slew of other recent efforts by the agency to crack down on fake news, has come amid mounting criticism from lawmakers over the use of government resources to combat it.
President Donald Trump and lawmakers have repeatedly called out fake news websites and their owners, arguing that they spread false and misleading information that can lead to costly medical expenses and lost lives.
Trump’s recent call for a “major investigation” into fake news has spurred lawmakers to call for increased funding to combat the spread of misinformation, a demand that has been echoed by the White House.
On Monday, the White Street Journal called for a crackdown on fake and fraudulent news, calling it a “huge problem” and asking lawmakers to enact legislation that would fund a special “FTC-funded investigation” that would “investigate whether companies and other organizations that knowingly publish fake or fraudulent information can be held liable for any damages to the United States.”
A spokesperson for the White Houses Office of Public Engagement and Consumer Protection told NBC News that the WhiteHouse was not aware of the new regulation.
The Federal Trade Commission (TFTC) has also said it will “take additional action” against websites that knowingly disseminate false or fraudulent content and will “proactively prosecute those responsible for the dissemination.”
The FCC’s proposal also allows the FCC to issue a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking” that sets out how the agency will apply the new law.
The FCC said the proposed rules will also “promote innovation in the digital environment,” and will allow the agency “to focus on improving consumers’ access to health care information.”