“A purely reactive mode is not appropriate, particularly in this new era of social media,” incoming FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, who was just recently a senior adviser at Google Health and Verily, told FDA staff in a letter that was made public this week.
“These kinds of distortions and half-truths that find their way into the public domain do enormous harm, both by leading people to behavior that is detrimental to their health and by causing them to eschew interventions that would improve their health,” he added.
Califf did not elaborate on what he considers misinformation. Also unclear is how the FDA will attempt to counter it online.
Critics of COVID-19 rules have said that the term “misinformation,” often deployed in mainstream media outlets and by public officials, is not clearly defined, and its meaning is often changed to serve their political goals.
Early reporting about the origins of COVID-19 and whether it has ties to a high-security laboratory in Wuhan, China, was initially labeled as “misinformation” by social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter. However, in 2021, top Biden administration intelligence officials acknowledged the possibility that the virus emerged following an accident in the Wuhan lab.
Dr. Pierre Kory, a pulmonary and critical care specialist who has spoken out about COVID-19 vaccine mandates, told NTD News in January that it is actually agencies and pharmaceutical companies that are pushing misinformation.
“There has been incredible amounts of that misinformation and it takes many forms,” Kory said last month. “Some of it is just the outright censoring or suppression of [information]. The agencies don’t talk about it. They don’t disseminate or give guidance to the population.”
He added these are “powerful interests” who “are seeking to suppress that information, they’re using widespread censorship, as well as propaganda to try to discredit the science and suppress the science.”
Earlier this week, Califf was confirmed as the FDA’s new commissioner, replacing acting FDA chief Janet Woodcock, in the Senate. Six Republicans supported his nomination, including Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.).
Before he was appointed by the Senate, Califf was a senior adviser at Google Health and Verily, which are both owned by Alphabet. An ethics disclosure form obtained by CNBC showed that he got a salary of $2.7 million and up to $5 million in stock at Verily. Califf also has stock in Amgen, Gilead Sciences and Bristol-Meyers Squibb.
Califf previously served as the FDA commissioner during former President Barack Obama’s final year in office.