June 18, 2021

As part of its ongoing push to protect consumers from fake news, the Department of Justice has launched an investigation into “fake news websites” that it claims are “generally serving as a conduit for the distribution of potentially harmful material” to consumers.

“The Department of the Treasury has taken this proactive step to address the proliferation of false and misleading content and has launched a nationwide investigation into websites that publish false, defamatory, and/or misleading content,” the DOJ stated in a press release on Tuesday.

“As a result of this investigation, the DOJ has issued a cease-and-desist order to the websites and has taken measures to identify and block their traffic, including by using a new, new approach called ContentID.”

While there is nothing illegal about the DOJ proceeding with a cease and desist order, there is a very serious risk that it may lead to a backlash from the entertainment industry.

According to the New York Times, “The companies involved said they have been receiving warnings from the Department’s chief law enforcement officer and that they have taken legal action.”

As reported by the NYT, a “complaint filed last month with the Department by an industry group said the move was aimed at limiting the potential for a retaliatory attack.”

However, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the move may have been driven by the DOJ’s desire to “create the appearance that content is safe from the spread of misinformation.”

Additionally, a number of media outlets have noted that the investigation is in its very early stages.

As such, it is difficult to assess the effectiveness of the move, but given the importance of the investigation to consumers, it may be the first step to deter any future attempts by the entertainment and sports industries to manipulate the news and market it as fake news.