U.S. lawmakers ask video providers to address misinformation by TV channels

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two U.S. lawmakers on Monday sent letters to a dozen cable, satellite and streaming video companies urging them to address their “disseminating misinformation to millions” of users from some channels.

FILE PHOTO: Chairman Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) responds to a question after attending a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health hearing to discuss protecting scientific integrity in response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 14, 2020. Shawn Thew/Pool via REUTERS

Democratic U.S. Representatives Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney wrote companies including Alphabet, AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, Roku, Inc, Apple Inc, Comcast, Charter Communications and DISH. The letters suggested companies played “a major role in the spread of dangerous misinformation that enabled the insurrection of January 6th and hinders our public health response to the current pandemic.”

The companies declined to comment or did not respond to messages seeking comment.

The letters said “right-wing media outlets, like Newsmax, One America News Network (OANN), and Fox News all aired misinformation about the November 2020 elections.”

Fox News Media, a unit of Fox Corp said in a statement on Monday that for “individual members of Congress to highlight political speech they do not like and demand cable distributors engage in viewpoint discrimination sets a terrible precedent.”

Fox News came under criticism from then-U.S. President Donald Trump and many of his supporters after the network first projected Arizona’s 11 electoral votes would go to challenger Joe Biden before other networks made the call.

The letters asked companies if they are planning to continue carrying Fox News, Newsmax, and OANN.

OANN did not immediately comment. Newsmax said in a statement “the House Democrats’ attack on free speech and basic First Amendment rights should send chills down the spines of all Americans.”

Newsmax said it “reported fairly and accurately on allegations and claims made by both sides during the recent election contest.”

The letters also asked companies “what moral or ethical principles (including those related to journalistic integrity, violence, medical information, and public health) do you apply in deciding which channels to carry or when to take adverse actions against a channel?”

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Dan Grebler