President Joe Biden’s Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy formally requested Big Tech companies submit data on the prevalence of COVID-19 “misinformation” on social media, instant messengers, search engines, e-commerce platforms, and crowdsourcing platforms.
The request for information is part of the Covid National Preparedness Plan that Biden announced during the State of The Union address on Tuesday. The surgeon general’s office wants platforms to submit data on the prevalence of alleged Covid misinformation, beginning with the common examples of such misinformation outlined by the CDC.
Dr. Murthy’s request asked about the major sources of Covid misinformation, including those that have been providing “unproven” treatments.
The request for information asked platforms to provide data on “exactly how many users saw or may have been exposed to instances of Covid-19 misinformation,” and the demographics that have allegedly been disproportionately exposed and affected by Covid misinformation.
In a statement to The New York Times, Dr. Murthy said: “Technology companies now have the opportunity to be open and transparent with the American people about the misinformation on their platforms. This is about protecting the nation’s health.”
The Surgeon General gave companies until May 2, 2022, to submit the requested information.
Dr. Murthy also called on the public and health care providers to provide information about how Covid misinformation has affected their lives and communities.
“We’re asking anyone with relevant insights – from original research and datasets, to personal stories that speak to the role of misinformation in public health – to share them with us,” he said.
This is not the first time the Surgeon General has addressed health misinformation. Last year, he accused online platforms of not doing enough to tackle health misinformation, which he described as “an urgent threat to public health.”