Speed Reads

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Surgeon general warns coronavirus misinformation is 'a serious threat to public health'

Misinformation is "a serious threat to public health," Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned on Thursday, and he called on Americans to think before they post on social media.

Murthy released an advisory on Thursday, urging Americans to "help slow the spread of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond." False information making the rounds can "cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people's health, and undermine public health efforts," he said. "Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort." Before posting or sharing something on social media, "take a moment to verify whether the information is accurate and whether the original source is trustworthy," Murthy suggested. "If we're not sure, we can choose not to share." 

He also spoke at a press briefing on Thursday, and said there are different reasons why Americans aren't getting vaccinated against the coronavirus, but "we know from polls ... that two-thirds of people who are not vaccinated either believe common myths about the COVID-19 vaccine or think some of those myths might be true." Everyone needs to "ask how we can be more accountable and responsible for the information that we share," he added, and those who have larger platforms "bear a greater responsibility to think about that."

The Biden administration is worried about the sheer amount of COVID-19 misinformation spreading on Facebook. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday said the platform needs to "move more quickly to remove violative posts. Posts that will be within their policies' removal often remain up for days. That's too long. The misinformation spreads too quickly." She also called on Facebook to be more transparent about how many people are viewing and interacting with the health misinformation.