US health agencies call for data on COVID misinformation


Protesters stand behind an art installation of body bags during a protest against Facebook and what they claim is misinformation regarding the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the social media giant’s platform, outside the front doors of Facebook’s headquarters in Washington, U.S., July 28, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Office of the Surgeon General will seek comment on COVID-19 misinformation online as they seek to understand the role it has played during the pandemic and its impact on health decisions made by individuals.

The agencies will issue a Request for Information (RFI) on Thursday to gather public comment and data within 60 days from stakeholders such as academic institutions, advocacy groups, government entities and community organizations.

“This RFI seeks to understand both the impact of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and the unique role that technology and social media platforms play in disseminating critical health information during of a public health emergency,” the agencies said.

RFI will seek details on the spread of COVID misinformation on tech platforms, their policies against such content, and the sources that spread such lies online. It will also seek data on the impact of this content on trust in the healthcare system, healthcare worker morale, and implications for future public health emergencies.

Reuters reported in February that the White House had eased its crackdown on vaccine misinformation after Biden accused Facebook last year of “killing people” by spreading lies about vaccines.

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