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'protecting the nation's health'

Surgeon general requests tech companies turn over data on COVID-19 misinformation

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is reportedly asking tech companies to hand over information pertaining to the spread of COVID-19 misinformation on their platforms.

A request for information from Murthy's office calls on companies to provide information regarding "exactly how many users saw or may have been exposed to instances of COVID-19 misinformation," in addition to data about the demographics exposed to this misinformation, The New York Times reports. The request also reportedly asked for information about major sources of COVID-19 misinformation. 

Murthy told the Times that "technology companies now have the opportunity to be open and transparent with the American people about the misinformation on their platforms" and argued this is "about protecting the nation's health." He also said he was asking for health care providers to provide information about the way patients have been negatively affected by COVID-19 misinformation. 

Last year, Murthy issued an advisory that described COVID-19 misinformation as an "urgent threat" that puts "lives at risk." He wrote, "The only way to address health misinformation is to recognize that all of us, in every sector of society, have a responsibility to act. Every single person can do their part to confront misinformation. But it's not just an individual responsibility. We need institutions to recognize that this issue is their moral and civic responsibility, too, and that they are accountable." 

According to the Times, the tech companies will reportedly have until early May to provide the data, although noncompliance won't result in a penalty.