This censorship by proxy is especially troubling, because the “misinformation” that offends Biden and Murthy isn’t limited to verifiably false statements about COVID-19 vaccines, such as claims that they cause infertility or alter human DNA. It also includes messages that are accurate but “misleading,” which could mean they discourage vaccination by emphasizing small risks, noting that vaccines aren’t completely effective or raising questions about the methodology of vaccine studies.
Nor is the “misinformation” targeted by the Biden administration confined to speech about vaccines. Murthy is also concerned about messages that might encourage people to “reject public-health measures such as masking and physical distancing,” which would encompass even good-faith skepticism about the effectiveness of those safeguards.
In fact, the “health misinformation” that Murthy decries includes any statement about COVID-19 that he views as “misleading” in light of the “best available evidence,” which is open to interpretation and “can change over time.” If the Biden administration expects social-media platforms to enforce that hopelessly subjective standard, it is demanding unprecedented regulation of online speech that can’t possibly be reconciled with its avowed respect for freedom of expression.