California Enacts New Law to Regulate COVID-19 Misinformation

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On September 30, 2022, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed AB 2098 into law. This new law will subject physicians and surgeons to discipline by the state’s medical boards if they spread misinformation or disinformation about COVID-19. California is the first state in the nation to enact such a law. Some state medical boards have attempted to intervene when health care professionals spread misinformation about COVID-19, but many have remained hesitant to take action due to a lack of clarity about their authority to regulate professional speech. 

This new law will allow the California state medical boards to be more proactive in their efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 misinformation. Limiting the intentional dissemination of false and misleading information about COVID-19 is necessary to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and to ensure that patients are equipped with accurate information before, during, and after infection. AB 2098 has received the steady support of the California Medical Association, which represents the interests of physicians practicing in the state. Pandemic Patients offered testimony in support of AB 2098 during a hearing convened by the California Senate’s Committee on Business, Professions, and Economic Development. Once the bill passed the California legislature, Pandemic Patients also urged Gov. Newsom to sign the bill into law. While some organizations and members of the public voiced their concerns about the legislation limiting doctors’ freedom of speech, our testimony included a detailed legal analysis that supports the authority of state medical boards to regulate this type of professional misconduct.

Pandemic Patients applauds California’s leadership on this issue and we urge other states to implement similar measures to regulate COVID-19 misinformation. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive updates from us when new advocacy opportunities become available. More information about our advocacy work is available through our COVID-19 Advocacy Center.

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