AMA calls for social media campaign to counter COVID conspiracy theories
The Australian Medical Association has called on the government to invest in long-term internet advertising to counter medical misinformation peddled online, including COVID-19 conspiracy theories.
In a statement on Tuesday, AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid said people are increasingly turning to social media to learn about healthy choices, but the internet has the potential to "significantly magnify health misinformation campaigns".
The AMA has called on the government to address health misinformation on the internet.Credit:Bloomberg
"People can easily absorb misinformation delivered directly to them through advertising, celebrity influencers, and people in positions of power," Dr Khorshid said.
"We have seen this with the anti-vaccination movement, and the countless conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic that circulate constantly on the internet.
"The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) does its best to crack down on fraudulent claims about items of clothing or glorified lava lamps being able to repel COVID-19, but more action is needed.
"We need an Australian government-funded campaign to counter this misinformation and promote healthy choices, including information about vaccine safety."
The call comes as Liberal politician Craig Kelly was criticised for claiming on social media that mask mandates for COVID-19 "can only be defined as child abuse".
In an ABC interview on Tuesday, Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack was asked if members of the Liberal Party such as Mr Kelly should be censured for spreading misinformation.
"Facts sometimes are contentious, aren’t they?" Mr McCormack responded. "And what you may think is right, somebody else might think is completely untrue. And that’s part of living in a democratic country."
Mr McCormack earlier said he wouldn't want to be on a jury that decides what gets taken down from social media.
Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack pictured in December.Credit:Alex Ellinghausen
"I don’t think we should have that sort of censorship in our society," he said. "But people also need to think very much about what they put up on Twitter and what they put up on social media."
In an interview with The Guardian on Tuesday, AMA deputy president Dr Chris Moy said he hopes top politicians can be "very strong and clear in their advice" to support science, to denounce others who are "torching the foundation of community health".
Dr Moy said something also needs to be done about social media.
“Some of that information is actually really perverting the foundational aspects of health and science,” Dr Moy said.
“The AMA tries not to get involved in politics, we really try to bring the community along with us by providing information which is above that political debate and to provide information that is trustworthy.
“It is frustrating when there is information that is provided which is incorrect and is potentially dangerous to the public.”
On Tuesday, the AMA released a health literacy position statement which called on the Australian government to invest in long-term "robust" online advertising to counter misinformation.
This online campaign should include the promotion of vaccine safety, as well as the health risks associated with alcohol, junk food, tobacco and other drugs, the AMA said.
Its position statement also called on social media companies to "acknowledge their public health responsibility and work actively to counter health misinformation on their platforms".
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