'An infodemic alongside a pandemic': 5 health experts react to Twitter's dropped misinformation ban

Many health experts are voicing an outcry after Twitter dropped its policy to label tweets that promote misinformation about COVID-19 on Nov. 23. 

After Elon Musk took over the social media platform in late October and laid off about half of its workforce, many health experts have questioned the site's power to moderate content and combat misinformation.

In a blog post published Nov. 30, Twitter said none of its policies have changed in the past month and its "approach to policy enforcement will rely more heavily on de-amplification of violative content: freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach."

Here are five health experts' reactions to the decision: 

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for length and clarity. They are presented in alphabetical order. 

Peter Chin-Hong, MD. Professor at UCSF Health Division of Infectious Diseases (San Francisco): "I'm very, very disappointed and a little bit frightened," Dr. Chin-Hong told KTVU. "If you don't take an intervention like vaccines that can save lives, then you add to the numbers. We still have more than 300 people dying a day."

Eric Feigl-Ding, PhD. Epidemiologist and Co-Founder of the World Health Network: "Bad news — it seems @Twitter just updated its misleading info policy that #COVID19 misinformation will no longer be enforced," he tweeted Nov. 29. "The 11k accounts that were suspended under the old policy will soon be restored. Stay folks — do NOT cede the town square to them!"

Simone Gold, MD. Founder and President of America's Frontline Doctors: "This policy was used to silence people across the world who questioned the media narrative surrounding the virus and treatment options," Dr. Gold, an anti-vaccine physician who is known for promoting unproven COVID-19 treatments, tweeted Nov. 29. "A win for free speech and medical freedom!"

Eric Topol, MD. Founder and Director of Scripps Research Translational Institute (San Diego): "I still believe it's important to stay @Twitter for the reasons below," he tweeted Nov. 29, referring to a previous tweet mentioning the need to share accurate health information and counter misinformation.

Lucky Tran, PhD. Director of Science Communications at Columbia University (New York City): "We're going through an infodemic alongside a pandemic," Dr. Tran told The Washington Post. "What that means is people are exposed to so much information that they don't know what's true or what's not. They don't know what to do to protect their health and the health of people around them. This change by Musk is going to make that problem even worse."


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