U.S. healthcare agencies request data on COVID misinformation

WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) – The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and the Office of the Surgeon General will request input on COVID-19 misinformation online as they seek to understand the role it played during the pandemic and its impact on health decisions made by individuals.

The agencies will put out a Request For Information (RFI) on Thursday to collect public comments and data within 60 days from stakeholders such as academic institutions, advocacy groups, government entities and community-based organizations.

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

“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 the dissemination of critical health information during a public health emergency,” the agencies said.

The RFI will look for details on how rampant COVID misinformation is on tech platforms, their policies to fight suh content and sources who spread such lies online. It will also look for data on how such content impacted trust in the healthcare system, morale of healthcare workers and the implications for future public health emergencies.

Reuters reported in February the White House has eased up in its fight against vaccine misinformation after Biden accused Facebook last year of “killing people” by spreading vaccine lies.

Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; editing by Jane Wardell

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