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Surgeon general: ‘We are still seeing a proliferation of misinformation online’

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Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Sunday said the U.S. is seeing a “proliferation of misinformation online,” as false information regarding COVID-19 and vaccinations is being amplified on social media platforms.

“We are still seeing a proliferation of misinformation online, and we know that health misinformation harms people’s health. It costs them their lives,” Murthy told host Dana Bash on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The issue of health misinformation has taken center stage in recent days, with concerns growing over its spread on social media platforms.

Murthy issued an advisory on Thursday calling health misinformation an “urgent threat,” writing in a statement that “it can cause confusion, sow distrust, and undermine public health efforts, including our ongoing work to end the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The advisory encourages technology and social media companies to do more to combat misinformation on their platforms, including redesigning algorithms to prevent spreading information and strengthening monitoring.

President Biden sounded a similar note on Friday, contending that social media platforms are “killing people” while responding to a question about his message to corporate giants regarding COVID-19 misinformation.

Murthy said on Sunday that one problem with health misinformation on social media is that it “takes away our freedom and our power to make decisions for us and for our families.”

“And that’s a problem and this, the platforms have to recognize they’ve played a major role in the increase in speed and scale with which misinformation is spreading,” he added.

When pressed by Bash on accusations that he is making Facebook and other social media platforms scapegoats for the White House missing its vaccine goals, Murthy said his “concern” is that “we’re not seeing nearly enough progress here” when it comes to misinformation spreading on social media platforms.

“And that’s one of the reasons I issued this advisory. It’s not entirely about the tech companies. I issued this advisory to call the entire country to action, recognizing their steps all of us can take. Technology companies have an important role,” Murthy said.

“Each of us has a decision that we make every time we post something on social media, and I’m asking people to pause and to see is a source accurate, is it coming from a scientifically credible authority, and if it’s not or if you’re not sure, don’t share,” he added.

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