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BOSTON (CBS) — “If you’re unvaccinated, you are not protected,” says President Biden, a simple message of survival that’s getting blocked in a big way by a tsunami of vaccine misinformation.
Cue Tucker Carlson of Fox News, who said of vaccination the other night on his top-rated cable show: “There are a lot of those people giving you medical advice on television and you should ignore them. The advice they’re giving you isn’t designed to help, it’s designed to make you comply.”
From Fox News stars to right-wing politicians like Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor-Greene, who got her Twitter feed suspended briefly for peddling vaccine falsehoods, the barrage has been constant on TV and online, no more so than on Facebook, the biggest outlet of all.
Biden is so outraged by the misinformation being widely peddled on Facebook, he’s been lashing out at the platform, saying “anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people.”
But the president’s plea for a crackdown has Facebook pushing back hard, dismissing the criticism as “finger-pointing” and suggesting the White House just wants to deflect blame for “missing their vaccine goals.”
That’s music to the ears of some Biden critics. “We can’t be dictating to these platforms what is misinformation and what is not misinformation,” says GOP Rep. Buddy Carter of Georgia.
What *can* be done about this mess, which has helped stall vaccination rates even as infection rates surge higher?
YouTube now says they’ll slap labels on health videos advising viewers about the source’s credibility. But the nation’s top doctor says their broader denial of responsibility for COVID-19’s resurgence has to stop. “The platforms have to recognize that they’ve played a major role in the increase in speed and scale with which misinformation is spreading,” says Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.
We should note that the battle against vaccine disinformation is a bipartisan one to some extent. From Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to Carter, the GOP congressman quoted earlier, there are conservative Republicans calling on people to get the shot.
But is there any way to stem the tide of disinformation and get the vaccination rate moving upward again?
Dr. Joan Donovan of the Harvard Kennedy School, lead author of a new study of how to fight medical misinformation, says there is. She has some interesting ideas and you can watch our in-depth interview with her on-demand elsewhere on cbsboston.com.
But the bottom line is this: people who care about their health and that of others have to be more discriminating about the information they consume.
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