Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security is calling for a national strategy to combat health misinformation and disinformation that it believes undermines the US response to the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The Center blames contradictory messaging and active subversion for reducing trust in public health responders, increasing belief in bogus medical cures and politicizing measures to keep the American public safe.
In its March 23 report, Johns Hopkins called on the National Security Council, drawing on support from federal agencies, to lead the fight against misinformation and disinformation.
The Center wants the NSA to:
- Intervene against false and damaging content as well as the sources propagating it. Encourage traditional news outlets and social media platforms to identify and remove, control the spread of and curtail generators of false information.
- Promote and ensure the abundant presence and distribution of factual information. Increase coordination between public health experts and the sources of public information, including social media platforms to increase dissemination of accurate material through multiple channels.
- Increase the public’s resilience to misinformation and disinformation via digital literacy programs at schools and community organizations to help people choose responsible sources of information and bolster awareness of dishonest players.
- Ensure a whole-of-nation response though collective planning with social media, news media, government officials, national security personnel, public health officials, scientists and the public.
Johns Hopkins' report offers solid suggestions to deal with the flood of false information and fake news.
After all, who would oppose training young people to spot disinformation? The answer: those that rely on disinformation to discredit political opponents in efforts to win elections.
The Center's recommendations will never fly in today's hyper-partisan political environment.
The US Chamber of Commerce is pushing back hard on a potential move by Democrats and the Securities and Exchange Commission to force companies to disclose how much they spend on political causes.
The feeling is that such a mandate would make the SEC the “arbiter of free speech” and would crimp the rights of companies to address the government, Tom Quaadman, executive VP of the Chamber, told the Financial Times.
Proponents of disclosure want the SEC to rule that companies must say how much they contribute to trade groups. They also want a central information clearinghouse to chart contributions from political action committees.
That could prove problematic for some companies. For instance, many of them announced they would suspend contributions to PACs following the storming of Capitol Hill on Jan. 6.
The Dallas Morning News reported March 23 that the PAC of its hometown corporate giant AT&T, which took the Jan. 6 pledge, has sent thousands of dollars to Republican groups with ties to members of Congress who objected to the certifying of Joe Biden as president.
An AT&T spokesperson said the company’s PAC did not contribute to the individual re-election campaigns of members who objected to the Electoral College vote.
The telcom claims that it has been assured that any donated money did not go to those who voted “nay” on the vote to certify Biden’s win.
It also says future donations to “multi-candidate PACs” will be in line with its Jan. 6 policy.
AT&T has dialed a wrong number on transparency.
Instead of fudging the issue, AT&T should just drop the political donations.