Surgeon Attacks Technology Companies Over False Information About Covid-19

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President Biden’s surgeon general used Thursday first official recommendation To offer the United States a broadside against the technology and social media companies it accuses of not doing enough to stop the spread of dangerous health misinformation, particularly about Covid-19.

Authorized Dr. Vivek Murthy has declared such misinformation an “immediate threat to public health.” According to a person with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity, his statement came days after representatives from his office met with Twitter officials.

General surgeons have traditionally used advice, which is shorthand, to talk about health issues such as tobacco use, opioid addiction, suicide prevention, and breastfeeding, to draw Americans’ attention to a public health issue and to make recommendations for addressing it.

However, Dr. Murthy’s 22-page footnote report contained a more political context. Fox News hosts like Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham are with their guests. Covid-19 casts doubt on vaccines, which studies have shown it to be highly effective in preventing death and hospitalization from the disease.

Dr. Murthy voiced his criticism of tech companies in a broader statement about the dangers of misinformation and misinformation about health, including misinformation about coronavirus vaccines. He urged all Americans to take care to share accurate information and said the United States needed a “society-encompassing approach” to combat the problem.

But at a press conference on Thursday, Dr. Murthy joined the White House press secretary, Jen Psaki, and made it clear that tech and social media companies are the main target, saying they have a singular responsibility to be more aggressive in fighting misinformation, citing Facebook. by name.

Dr. “Modern tech companies have allowed misinformation to poison our information environment and have little liability to their users,” Murthy said.

“We expect more from our tech companies,” he added. “We ask them to work with greater transparency and accountability. We ask them to monitor misinformation more closely.”

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube said on Thursday they are taking steps to crack down on misleading health information in line with their coronavirus misinformation policies. All three said they offer features to direct users to authoritative health resources on their platforms.

“We are permanently banning pages, groups and accounts that repeatedly violate our rules on COVID misinformation, including more than a dozen pages, groups and accounts of some of the people cited in the press briefing today,” spokesperson Dani Lever said. Facebook.

YouTube said in a statement that it welcomed many aspects of the general surgeon’s report. Twitter He said he agrees with Murthy’s approach and welcomes his partnership.

Searching for tech and media companies is hard work, and the White House has danced around the question of whether it should try to regulate companies like Facebook that have become health disinformation platforms. When Ms. Psaki was asked about this at Wednesday’s briefing, she was neutral.

“Obviously, any decision to regulate or account for any platform will definitely be a policy decision,” he said. But in the meantime, we will continue to call for disinformation and where this information is going.”

Dr. Hours after Murthy’s report was published, Rockefeller Foundation announced The United States announced it will provide $13.5 million in new funding to strengthen coronavirus response efforts in Africa, India and Latin America, and specifically “against health misinformation and misinformation.”

Digital Public Library of America He also said he would partner with the surgeon general to bring together librarians, academics, journalists and civic leaders to talk about the role libraries can play in fighting misinformation.

Misinformation about social distancing, mask use, treatments and vaccines has become common during the pandemic. The report is a sign that the Biden administration, facing a sharp decline in the number of new vaccines, is moving more strongly to face it. Less than 50 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, and many top healthcare professionals called for the president to do more to reach people who haven’t been shot yet.

While nationwide cases and hospitalization numbers remain relatively low, more local issues are emerging and national trends are heading in the wrong direction, fueled by its spread. more contagious Delta variantt. Vaccines are effective against the variant. Counties that voted for Mr. Biden have higher vaccination levels on average. voting for former President Donald J. Trump. Conservatives tend to reject the vaccine much more often than Democrats.

The surgeon’s report is persistently apolitical and does not name any false information providers. But it comes as some Republican leaders, concerned that the virus is spreading rapidly in conservative parts of the country, begin to promote vaccination and vaccination. speak against him media figures and elected officials who cast doubt on vaccines.

Health misinformation is not a new phenomenon and is not limited to the news media. In the 1990s, the report falsely claimed that a “poorly designed study” – which was later withdrawn – falsely claimed that the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine caused autism. “Even after it was withdrawn, the claim gained some traction and contributed to lower vaccination rates over the next 20 years,” the report said.

It refers to evidence of the spread of false information, including: Research by the Kaiser Family Foundation At the end of May, it found that 67 percent of unvaccinated adults had heard of at least one Covid-19 vaccine myth and either believed it to be true or weren’t sure. A Science Journal analysis of millions of social media posts He found that false news was shared 70 percent more than true stories.

Another last study The surgeon general has shown that even brief exposure to false information makes people less likely to seek vaccinations.

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