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June 18, 2020

Underwood Introduces New Legislation to Strengthen America’s Resilience Against Disinformation During Coronavirus Pandemic

(WASHINGTON) - Today, Congresswoman Lauren Underwood (IL-14), Vice Chair of the Homeland Security Committee, introduced new legislation to strengthen America’s resilience against disinformation during crises like the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Overseas and domestically, the increased use of deepfakes, manipulated media, and online bots to spread disinformation has become an emerging homeland security threat that threatens public health and safety. The Protecting Against Public Safety Disinformation Act of 2020 would direct the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to analyze these threats and to provide federal resources and guidance to help local public health and safety professionals mitigate the impact of disinformation in their communities. 

“Disinformation poses a grave threat to our national security, elections, and public health in communities across the country. During an emergency like a health pandemic, it is critically important that people get accurate information about how to keep themselves and their families safe. We have already seen efforts by foreign adversaries to take advantage of this crisis by spreading dangerous falsehoods about the disease. The Protecting Against Public Safety Disinformation Act will help state and local public health and safety officials mitigate the impact of disinformation in their communities so we can keep our families safe and healthy,” said Underwood. 

“The proliferation of disinformation - whether on public health information or our elections - is a clear national security threat. When we face an emergency, it is imperative we ensure the truth gets through. The Federal government must do more to combat the misinformation threat and help states and localities do the same. I applaud Congresswoman Underwood for introducing this timely legislation,” said Chairman Bennie Thompson (MS-02) of the House Homeland Security Committee.

The Protecting Against Public Safety Disinformation Act of 2020 would:  

  • Direct the DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis to assess the impact of disinformation operations by malicious foreign actors on domestic preparedness for and response to terrorism and other homeland security threats; 
  • Charge the DHS Science and Technology Directorate with developing and recommending research-based methods for identifying and countering such disinformation operations; 
  • Ensure that state and local public health officials, first responders, and emergency managers have access to those assessments and recommendations; and 
  • Require DHS to report to Congress on its findings. 

A one pager on the legislation can be found here.  

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