“To our knowledge, the cable, satellite, and over-the-top companies that distribute this media to American viewers have done nothing to respond to the misinformation these outlets broadcast,” said two California Democratic officials, Anna G. Eshoo and Jerry McNerney wrote in the letter, which was reviewed by the New York Times.
Newsmax, a right-wing cable channel owned by AT&T, CenturyLink, Charter, Comcast, Dish, and Verizon, saw ratings soar in November for programs that addressed the former president’s allegations of election fraud. One America News Network, a right-wing outlet owned by AT&T, CenturyLink, and Verizon, also promoted the false theory.
Fox News, the most watched cable news network offered by all major airlines, was one of five defendants in a $ 2.7 billion libel lawsuit filed this month by electoral technology company Smartmatic. In the lawsuit, the company accused Fox News, its parent company Fox Corporation, three Fox anchors and two frequent Fox guests of making false claims about the choice and role of Smartmatic in it. (Fox denied the claims and moved to dismiss the lawsuit.)
Congress may question whether cable providers are responsible for the programming they deliver to millions of Americans, but it may not be able to force them to delete networks that have been spreading misinformation. And unlike broadcasters, cable channels do not have licenses that are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission.
The legislature’s letter asked companies: “What steps have you taken before, on and after the November 3, 2020 elections and January 6, 2021 attacks to monitor the spread of disinformation, respond to it, and them? including encouraging or inciting violence through channels your business distributes to millions of Americans? “