Surgeon General Warns Misinformation Costs Lives

COVID battle especially is threatened, Murthy says in asking Americans' help
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 15, 2021 6:05 PM CDT
Surgeon General Asks Help Fighting Misinformation
Dr. Vivek Murthy speaks during the daily briefing Thursday at the White House about health misinformation.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

The US surgeon general pointed out Thursday that the national advisories issued by his office usually concern a disease, or our diet, or smoking, or drinking. Not this time, ABC reports. "Today, we live in a world where misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation's health," Dr. Vivek Murthy told reporters at the White House. "While it often appears innocuous on social media apps on retail sites or search engines—the truth is that misinformation takes away our freedom to make informed decisions about our health and the health of our loved ones." The 22-page advisory, the first during the Biden administration, emphasizes the threat misinformation poses to the battle against COVID-19. It's hurt vaccination efforts and adoption of public health measures, the advisory says, lengthening the pandemic.

In stressing the urgency, Murthy asked for Americans' help, per CNN. "Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort," he said. The surgeon general asked that people posting on social media try to verify the information first, or consider whether the source is reliable. White House press secretary Jen Psaki brought up Facebook, saying it must move quickly to keep misinformation about the coronavirus vaccines off the site. "Posts that will be within their policies' removal often remain up for days," she said. "That's too long." A Facebook spokesperson said Thursday that the company's working on it. The advisory includes recommendations for families, health professionals, researchers, educators, the media, and others. "Simply put, health misinformation has cost us lives," Murthy said. The advisory can be read here. (More Vivek Hallegere Murthy stories.)

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