The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDH) turned off comments on its social media accounts to help combat the spread of misinformation, The Associated Press reported.
The health agency said on Monday that its social media accounts will continue to share public health information for North Dakota residents and that its comment ban will apply to all posts, not specific topics.
The NDDH is a Cabinet-level agency that serves at the discretion of North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum (R).
Some residents applauded the agency for its decision, while others argued blocking comments was a free speech infringement that discounted people’s opinions.
The move comes as U.S. health officials have stated that misinformation on social media platforms has caused some people to be hesitant about getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Sixty percent of North Dakota residents are vaccinated against the coronavirus, one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, the AP reported.
NDDH spokeswoman Marie Moe told the news wire that her department consulted with Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) officials on its current approach.
In July, the MSDH started to block comments on its Facebook posts related to COVID-19 due to misinformation, the AP reported.
Moe also said the ban was due to residents disputing the state’s message on vaccinations and challenging the health department's guidelines, the AP noted.
“People started discrediting information about everything we posted,” Moe told the AP. “Our comment section was no longer a constructive dialogue.”
“There was lots of arguing back and forth,” Moe said. “We had people share stories of their loss of a loved one due COVID, and then others demanding to see the death certificate.”