WHO Warns of Dangers of Health Misinformation Across Social Media Following Elon Musk’s $44 bn Twitter Acquisition 
health misinformation
Mike Ryan, Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies

Following the purchase of Twitter by billionaire Elon Musk on Monday, the World Health Organization warned about the dangers of health and vaccine misinformation on social media, and expressed hope that the acquisition would lead to an ‘improvement of quality information’. 

“There is misinformation and disinformation out there across whatever platform you wish to go to. The good stewardship of these platforms is extremely important,” said Mike Ryan, Executive Director of WHO Health Emergencies, in response to a reporter’s question at a media briefing Tuesday afternoon.

“Anyone who reaches a position in life where they have so much potential influence over the way information is shared with communities takes on a huge responsibility. We wish Mr. Musk luck with his endeavors to improve the quality of information that we all receive.” 

Musk purchased the social media platform Twitter in a $44 billion deal, sparking concern and fear for free speech on the site

While Musk has called himself a free speech absolutist and has criticized Twitter’s moderation, political activists expect that this means less moderation and reinstatement of banned individuals including former US President Donald Trump – which has led to cheers from conservatives and concerns that this may lead to a rise in hate speech and misinformation. 

WHO maintained that it engages with platforms such as Twitter in order to disseminate the best possible health and vaccine information. 

‘Critical’ that health information across social media remains ‘credible’ 

WHO Director of Immunization Kate O’Brien

WHO also emphasized the ‘critical’ nature of accurate health information, especially when it comes to life-saving vaccines. 

Added WHO Director of Immunization Kate O’Brien: “People’s lives are lost as a result of misinformation or intentional incorrect information. It’s just incredibly critical on vaccines and on other health issues that people are seeking credible information from credible sources.” 

She stated that this matter was not just “chatter on social media channels” and emphasized the role that social media played in conveying information to the public.

“It really has an impact on what people do, what people chose to do, what they chose to do for themselves, for their children, for their families.”

“It’s something we really take seriously. We have to recognize that for a vast majority of people, they [need to] understand the value of vaccines, they understand the frankly life-threatening risks of the diseases against which we have life-saving vaccines [for], and are seeking vaccines and getting vaccinated.” 

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