On 18 January 2020, The Washington Postreported that several prominent anti-vaccine groups received over $850,000 from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), a government plan that provides loans to small businesses to assist in paying wages and certain other expenses during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Generally, I don’t spend a lot of time discussing recent news events because real newspapers, like the Washington Post, do a much better job than I would. I wouldn’t even have thought in my wildest imagination that this bailout money would have gone to these groups that have only one purpose – reducing vaccine uptake so that more children and adults will suffer from diseases.
I find it particularly ironic that these groups, which are not only anti-vaccine but populated with right-wing COVID-19 deniers, would take bailout money that was expressly set up to help businesses deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
When I read the article, I was livid. And I’m going to express my anger in this post, but I don’t think I’m the only person who wants to write the same things. So, this is like the old feathered raptor’s op-ed piece on this story.
The process to request that the FTC investigate these individuals is relatively easy. And it’s time to change the discussion about vaccines, and make certain that those individuals who make money from lying about vaccines are blocked from doing so.
This article examines another tactic suggested by Ms. Naprawa, regulation by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). This tactic is at once more limited and more powerful than the tort of misrepresentation. It is more limited, since the FTC’s power of regulating false speech is limited to commercial speech, and the decision to use it depends on the FTC, with individuals’ power to promote such action extremely limited. It is more powerful since individuals do not have to bear the costs of bringing a suit and proving the falsity, since it can be done before harms actually happen, and since it is a traditional power of the FTC that has been used in similar context in the past.
Maybe the FTC could regulate anti-vaccine misrepresentations in certain areas.