Thursday, August 5

Surgeon General doubles down on criticism of social media, says companies like Facebook need to’take responsibility’ for COVID-19 misinformation


  • Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday doubled down on his criticism of tech companies.
  • In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, Murthy said companies “need to take responsibility” for the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.
  • Murthy last week issued a 22-page advisory declaring misinformation a threat to public health.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy doubled down Sunday on his criticism of tech companies for their role in the spread of misinformation related to COVID-19 and vaccines.

“What all of us have the right to is accurate information, so we can make the right decisions for us and our families. That is not the reality for far too many people,” Murthy told Fox News’ Chris Wallace during an appearance on “Fox News Sunday.”

“They’re inundated with misinformation, and all of us — technology companies, individuals, health professionals, and government — have roles they can play in addressing and slowing the spread of misinformation,” he added.

Murthy on Thursday in a 22-page report issued his first advisory as the surgeon general. In the report, Murthy deemed misinformation “an urgent threat to public health” and called out tech companies for their role in hosting misinformation on their platforms, some of which casts doubt on the safety and effectiveness of coronavirus vaccines.

Health experts say the spread of misinformation about the vaccines and COVID-19 has played a part in millions of people avoiding getting vaccinated– even as new variants of the disease are spreading.

On Friday, a day after the report, President Joe Biden told NBC News that social-media companies were “killing people” because of misinformation hosted on their platforms.

“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people,” Biden said.

A spokesperson for Facebook pushed back on the administration’s claims.

“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” a Facebook spokesperson told Insider and other outlets. “The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine.”

But Murthy on Sunday doubled down on his advisory.

“The reality is misinformation is still spreading like wildfire in our country, aided and abetted by technology platforms,” ​​he said.

“There are pathways that tech companies can take to address misinformation that’s flowing on their side,” Murthy added. “I acknowledge they’re taking steps, and I appreciate that. But I’m also very clearly saying it is not enough. The intention is good but at the end of the day, it doesn’t save the life of someone who was misled by misinformation on these sites.”

He added: “I’m asking these companies to step up and take responsibility for what is happening on their sites. I’m asking them to look out for the people all across this country whose lives depend on having access to accurate information.”

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