A case brought by far-right Attorneys General of Missouri and Louisiana that could impede the government’s ability to promote public health and combat dangerous vaccine misinformation. 

Social media has proven to be fertile ground for the growth of misinformation and conspiracy theories. In the worst examples, widespread conspiracies have severe, tragic consequences—like the spread of vaccine misinformation, which reduces vaccine uptake, diverts clinical resources, and costs lives. Now, some attorneys general and extreme legal groups are going to court and making arguments that could make it more difficult for the government to stem the onslaught of dangerous misinformation about vaccines.

 

WHAT’S AT STAKE 

The medical consensus is clear: vaccinations save lives. Vaccination misinformation kills. 

US Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccines are both effective and safe. Vaccination has been shown to reduce mortality rates in a variety of contexts; reduce the prevalence of deadly diseases; and, when vaccination is widespread enough, reduce the burden on the medical system. 

That is why groups representing hundreds of thousands of medical and public health professionals on the frontlines of fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and the spread of other communicable diseases submitted a friend-of-the-court brief to the US Supreme Court on December 22, 2023, to explain that the government has a “compelling interest” in combating vaccine misinformation. As the medical professionals explain in their brief: combating vaccine misinformation is the government trying to prevent false statements from costing Americans their lives.  

 

WHO IS INVOLVED 

People Defending Progress

Few people have seen the detrimental effects of vaccine misinformation more clearly than clinicians and public health professionals forced to try to counter misinformation that has not been stopped at its source. An American Academy of Pediatrics survey of pediatricians found that only 34% felt they had adequate time to address misinformation with patients and their families. The brief cites stories of physicians facing extreme stress and harassment motivated by vaccine misinformation. 

Democracy Forward represented the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Medical Association, American College of Physicians, American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Geriatrics Society in submitting the brief to the Supreme Court. The brief continues Democracy Forward’s substantial track record of supporting evidence-based public health measures and elevating the voices of experts in the legal process. 

 

Extremists Attacking Democracy

The plaintiffs who filed this case include the founder of a website that serves as a forum for far-right conspiracy theories and which has been repeatedly debunked, labeled as misinformation by Facebook, and repeatedly sued for “the deliberate spread of dangerous and inflammatory political disinformation designed to sow distrust in democratic institutions.” Another of the plaintiffs in the case is an anti-vaccine advocate who was featured in a documentary as part of a movement to oppose vaccines.

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