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Video: Tech Companies ‘Enabled Misinformation,’ Surgeon General Says

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Tech Companies ‘Enabled Misinformation,’ Surgeon General Says

The U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, called for a national effort to stop the spread of misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines and accused tech and social media companies of exacerbating the problem.

Today, I issued a surgeon general’s advisory on the dangers of health misinformation. Surgeon general advisories are reserved for urgent public health threats. And while those threats have often been related to what we eat, drink and smoke, today, we live in a world where misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health. Health misinformation is false, inaccurate or misleading information about health, according to the best evidence at the time. And while it often appears innocuous on social media apps and 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. During the Covid-19 pandemic, health misinformation has led people to resist wearing masks in high-risk settings. It’s led them to turn down proven treatments and to choose not to get vaccinated. This has led to avoidable illnesses and death. Simply put, health information has cost us lives. Modern technology companies have enabled misinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to their users. They’ve allowed people to intentionally spread misinformation, what we call disinformation, to have extraordinary reach. They’ve designed product features such as like buttons that reward us for sharing emotionally charged content, not accurate content. And their algorithms tend to give us more of what we click on, pulling us deeper and deeper into a well of misinformation. Now we need an all-of-society approach to fight misinformation. And that’s why this advisory that I issued today has recommendations for everyone.

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