President Biden’s surgeon general on Thursday formally asked major tech platforms to submit information on the extent of misinformation about Covid-19 on social media, search engines, crowdsourced platforms, e-commerce platforms, and social networks. instant messaging systems.

A request for information from the Office of the Surgeon General demanded that technology platforms send data and analysis on the prevalence of misinformation about Covid-19 on their sites, starting with common examples of vaccine misinformation documented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The notice asks companies to submit “exactly how many users have seen or may have been exposed to instances of Covid-19 misinformation”, as well as aggregate data on demographics that may have been exposed or affected in any way disproportionate to misinformation.

Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy also demanded information from platforms about major sources of Covid-19 misinformation, including those who engaged in the sale of unproven Covid-19 products, services and treatments.

“Tech companies now have the opportunity to be open and transparent with the American people about misinformation on their platforms,” Dr. Murthy said in an emailed statement. He added: “This is about protecting the health of the nation.”

Companies have until May 2 to submit the data. Denying requests for information does not result in a penalty, but the notice is the Biden administration’s first formal request for tech companies to submit disinformation data about Covid-19, according to the surgeon general’s office.

Six months ago, Dr Murthy used his first official notice in the United States to launch a campaign against tech and social media companies, which he accused of not doing enough to stop the spread of false dangerous health information – especially about Covid-19. He called misinformation an “urgent threat to public health”.

The request for information is part of President Biden’s national Covid preparedness plan, which the White House detailed on Wednesday and which is a roadmap for a new stage of the pandemic where Covid-19 causes “minimal disruption”. , according to the White House. Mr Biden first revealed details of the plan during his State of the Union address on Tuesday evening.

In addition to demanding misinformation data from tech platforms, the Surgeon General has called on healthcare providers and the public to submit information about how misinformation about Covid-19 has negatively impacted patients and communities.

“We ask anyone with relevant information – from original research and datasets to personal stories that speak to the role of misinformation in public health – to share it with us,” Dr. Murthy said.