By Jack Phillips
U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued a request Thursday for information surrounding alleged COVID-19 misinformation from Big Tech companies, community organizations, and healthcare providers.
“Misinformation has had a profound impact on COVID-19 and our response,” Murthy told CNN on Thursday, confirming that he sent a letter to those groups. “Studies have demonstrated that the vast majority of the American public either believes common myths about COVID-19 or thinks those myths might be true. And many of those include myths around the COVID-19 vaccine, so we’ve seen firsthand how misinformation is harming people’s health when it comes to COVID.”
The notice asks the companies to provide “exactly how many users saw or may have been exposed to instances of COVID-19 misinformation,” according to The New York Times. Murthy confirmed the contents of the letter to the news outlet.
The Surgeon General in July 2021 issued an advisory calling COVID-19-related “misinformation” an “urgent threat” in a bid to put public pressure on social media platforms to monitor it.
“It can cause confusion, sow distrust, and undermine public health efforts, including our ongoing work to end the COVID-19 pandemic,” Murthy said in a statement at the time.
Critics of the administration’s COVID-19 response and big tech companies like Facebook, Google, and Twitter have said that the term “misinformation” is a loaded one that has a constantly shifting definition.
Early in 2020 during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, social media platforms blocked reports that speculated on whether the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus, which causes COVID-19, emerged at a high-security laboratory in Wuhan, China—near where CCP authorities reported the first cases. But in May 2021, the multi-agency U.S. Intelligence Community acknowledged that a number of federal officials believe the virus leaked from the Wuhan lab, according to an announcement from President Joe Biden.
Similarly, tech companies in 2020 and 2021 took down posts or “fact-checked” articles on studies that suggested that “natural immunity,” or a previous COVID-19 infection, grants a high degree of protection against the virus. In February 2022, chief White House COVID-19 adviser Anthony Fauci suggested to the Financial Times that natural immunity can help ease the spread of COVID-19, which would therefore allow the government to rescind virus-related rules.
“We are looking at a time when we have enough people vaccinated and enough people with protection from previous infection that the COVID restrictions will soon be a thing of the past,” Fauci remarked in early February.
Companies have until May 2 to provide data to the Surgeon General’s office. There is no penalty for denying the request, Murthy’s office told the NY Times.
The Epoch Times has contacted the U.S. Surgeon General’s office for comment.