Dr. Vivek Murthy, the U.S. Surgeon General, says COVID-19 "misinformation is an urgent threat to public health."
Murthy, in his first surgeon general’s advisory, said that "health misinformation" continues to put "lives at risk" and prolong the pandemic, NPR is reporting.
He called for a war against the "health misinformation."
"COVID has really brought into sharp focus the full extent of damage that health misinformation is doing," Murthy told NPR.
Surgeon general's advisories are reserved for significant public health challenges that demand immediate attention.
He urged those who are uncertain of the validity of claims about COVID not to share questionable statements.
"If you're not sure, not sharing is often the prudent thing to do."
And ABC7 News noted that Murthy, in his 22-page advisory, suggested accountable "stakeholders" in the fight against misinformation include public officeholders.
"Misinformation tends to flourish in environments of significant societal division, animosity, and distrust," the advisory says. "Distrust of the health care system due to experiences with racism and other inequities may make it easier for misinformation to spread in some communities. Growing polarization, including in the political sphere, may also contribute to the spread of misinformation."
And Murthy said in a statement: "Health misinformation is an urgent threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, and undermine public health efforts, including our ongoing work to end the COVID-19 pandemic. As Surgeon General, my job is to help people stay safe and healthy, and without limiting the spread of health misinformation, American lives are at risk ... tackling this challenge will require an all-of-society approach, but it is critical for the long-term health of our nation."
He called on governments to prevent and address misinformation by finding "common ground on difficult questions," increasing investment in research, fact checking, and engaging in rumor control, according to ABC7.
ABC7 news added Murthy also said technology platforms can assess benefits and harms of how their products are built and "take responsibility for addressing the harms" and strengthen their monitoring of misinformation.
And he said journalists and media outlets can make sure their staffs are trained in recognizing, debunking, and avoiding amplification of misinformation.’
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