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Dr. Vivek Murthy also asked the platforms for information about the main sources of false information in COVID-19. The deadline for companies to send in the data is May 2.
On Thursday, President Biden’s surgeon general formally asked the major tech platforms to share information about how much COVID-19 misinformation is spread on social networks, search engines, crowdsourced platforms, e-commerce platforms, and instant messaging systems.
In response to a request for information from the surgeon general’s office, tech platforms were asked to send data and analysis on how often COVID-19 misinformation was spread on their sites, starting with examples of common vaccine misinformation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The notice asks the companies to report “exactly how many users saw or may have been exposed to COVID-19 misinformation,” as well as “aggregate data on demographics that may have been disproportionately exposed to or affected by the misinformation.”
Dr. Vivek Murthy, who is the surgeon general, also asked the platforms for information about the main sources of false information about COVID-19, such as those that sell unproven COVID-19 products, services, and treatments.
In an email statement, Dr. Murthy said, “Tech companies now have the chance to be open and honest with the American people about the false information on their platforms.” He also said, “This is about keeping the health of the country safe.”
The deadline for companies to send in the data is May 2. There is no penalty for not giving out information, but the notice is the first formal request from the Biden administration for tech companies to give COVID-19 misinformation data, according to the surgeon general’s office.
Six months ago, Dr. Murthy’s first official advisory to the United States was a broadside against tech and social media companies. He said they weren’t doing enough to stop the spread of dangerous health misinformation, especially about COVID-19. He said that the false information was “an immediate danger to public health.”
The request for information is part of President Biden’s COVID National Preparedness Plan, which the White House explained on Wednesday. The plan is a road map for a new stage of the pandemic in which COVID-19 causes “minimal disruption,” according to the White House. During his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, Mr. Biden first talked about the plan.
In addition to asking tech platforms for information about misinformation, the surgeon general asked health care providers and the public to tell him how COVID-19 misinformation has hurt patients and communities.
Dr. Murthy said, “We’re asking anyone with relevant ideas, like original research, data sets, or personal stories about how misinformation affects public health, to share them with us.”
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