U.S. Surgeon General, Rockefeller Foundation Announce Big Initiatives to Address ‘Urgent Threat’ of Vaccine Misinformation

The U.S. surgeon general on Thursday issued an advisory calling on tech companies to crack down on what the office called vaccine “misinformation.” The same day, The Rockefeller Foundation announced $13.5 million in new funding to combat vaccine “misinformation and disinformation.”

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Thursday issued an advisory warning the American public about the “urgent threat” of health misinformation and disinformation that have “threatened the U.S. response to COVID-19 and continue to prevent Americans from getting vaccinated, prolonging the pandemic and putting lives at risk.”

The 22-page advisory calls on Big Tech and social media companies to take more responsibility to stop the online spread of health misinformation.

The advisory blamed “misinformation” for causing people to decline COVIDvaccines, reject public health measures such as masking and physical distancing and using unproven treatments.

Murthy, who operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said in a press release, “As Surgeon General, my job is to help people stay safe and healthy, and without limiting the spread of health misinformation, American lives are at risk.”

According to the HHS press release, whether “health misinformation” is false, inaccurate or misleading will be determined by the “best available evidence.”

The advisory further defined the “best available evidence” standard as the preferred benchmark because “claims can be highly misleading and harmful even if the science on an issue isn’t yet settled.”

“We can meaningfully improve the health information environment even without a consensus definition of misinformation,” Murthy said.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on Thursday issued an advisory warning the American public about the “urgent threat” of health misinformation and disinformation that have “threatened the U.S. response to COVID-19 and continue to prevent Americans from getting vaccinated, prolonging the pandemic and putting lives at risk.”

The 22-page advisory calls on Big Tech and social media companies to take more responsibility to stop the online spread of health misinformation.

The advisory blamed “misinformation” for causing people to decline COVIDvaccines, reject public health measures such as masking and physical distancing and using unproven treatments.

Murthy, who operates under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), said in a press release, “As Surgeon General, my job is to help people stay safe and healthy, and without limiting the spread of health misinformation, American lives are at risk.”

According to the HHS press release, whether “health misinformation” is false, inaccurate or misleading will be determined by the “best available evidence.”

The advisory further defined the “best available evidence” standard as the preferred benchmark because “claims can be highly misleading and harmful even if the science on an issue isn’t yet settled.”

“We can meaningfully improve the health information environment even without a consensus definition of misinformation,” Murthy said.

“Facebook needs to move more quickly to remove violative posts,” Psaki said. “Posts that will be within their policies’ removal often remain up for days. That’s too long. The information spreads too quickly,” she said.

CNN source said Biden officials took concerns about vaccine misinformation to Facebook and concluded the tech giant was either not “taking this very seriously, or they are hiding something” due to what they view as Facebook’s unwillingness to tackle vaccine misinformation.

The source pointed to how Robert F. Kennedy Jr., co-founder and chair of Children’s Health Defense, was banned from Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, but not from Facebook itself.

The Facebook spokesperson told CNN, “We don’t automatically disable accounts across our apps, because the accounts may post about different things on our different services.”

In an interview today with The Defender, Kennedy said:

“I’m very happy to debate the Surgeon General or to line my stacks up against his and allow the public to judge which one of us is the source of misinformation — is the font of all the vaccine misinformation, disinformation and obfuscation. I would also remind the Surgeon General that censorship by the government is not just un-American, it’s unconstitutional, and he should have the confidence in his policies in the marketplace of ideas and not have to rely on coercion.”

Kennedy said it’s not up to the government or CNN to decide. He said:

“It’s a dangerous path for democracy when we allow government officials and CNN, which is utterly dependent on pharmaceutical advertising, to tell Americans they are not allowed to criticize pharmaceutical products — zero liabilityexperimental pharmaceutical products.”