US Surgeon General on Measures Taken by Tech Companies to Combat Covid Disinformation: “It’s Not Enough”

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US Surgeon General on Measures Taken by Tech Companies to Combat Covid Disinformation: “It’s Not Enough”


“Some of them worked to try to, you know, promote specific sources like the CDC and other medical sources. Others have tried to reduce the prevalence of bogus sources and research findings, ”Murthy told CNN’s Dana Bash on“ State of the Syndicate. “But what I have also told them, in public and in private, is that it is not enough. That we still see a proliferation of disinformation online. And we know that health misinformation harms people’s health. It costs them their lives. ”

Murthy’s comments follow his warning last week that such misinformation is “a serious threat to public health.” The Biden administration recently ramped up pressure on Facebook and other social media and tech companies amid growing concerns over misleading coronavirus vaccine claims.

President Joe Biden on Friday accused social media platforms like Facebook of “killing people” with misinformation, saying “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.”

A Facebook official told CNN that the White House was looking for “scapegoats” to blame for the country that failed to meet administration goals. The White House had sought to vaccinate 70% of American adults with at least one vaccine against Covid-19 and 160 million Americans fully vaccinated by July 4.

Murthy on Sunday doubled down on the administration’s stance that the spread of health misinformation has played a key role in slowing vaccinations.

“Here’s a key thing to remember: Health misinformation robs us of our freedom and power to make decisions for ourselves and for our families. And that’s a problem, ”he said. “And platforms need to recognize that they have played a major role in increasing the speed and scale with which disinformation spreads. “

Lawmakers criticized Facebook for failing to stop the spread of misleading claims and conspiracy theories, including disproved claims that postal voting is not trustworthy and the results of the 2020 election were illegitimate. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who has repeatedly testified before Congress on disinformation and related issues, struggled to present the platform as a safe space for users while taking a broad view of the freedom of speech – a position that allowed fringe claims and theories to take place on the platform.

Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, said on Sunday that action should be taken on misinformation about vaccines.

“Social media has greatly contributed to this misinformation. There is no doubt, ”Klobuchar told Bash in a separate interview. “When we have a public health crisis and people die every day, that’s enough. They are the richest companies in the world. … There’s absolutely no reason why they couldn’t better monitor this and remove this shit from their platforms that are basically saying to people, “Oh, hey, there are problems”, when we know that the science proves that there is none. “

In June, in Washington, DC, Attorney General Karl Racine subpoenaed Facebook in a recently disclosed investigation into the social media giant’s handling of disinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine. The summons requested internal documents showing how the company handled anti-vaccine content related to Covid. He also asked Facebook to produce documents on all groups, pages and accounts that have violated Facebook’s policies on the matter; information about the amount of misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine that Facebook has removed from its platform; and how much misinformation about the Covid-19 vaccine is subject to third-party fact-checking.

In early 2019, Facebook announced it would take action against vaccine misinformation after a measles outbreak that began in Washington state. Earlier this month, the company acknowledged that it was testing prompts that notify users when they may have been exposed to extremist content on Facebook.

This story was updated with additional details on Sunday.

CNN’s Donald Judd, Maegan Vazquez, Donie O’Sullivan and Brian Fung contributed to this report.

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