Public Health Grand Rounds: Misinformation, Law, and Public Health after COVID-19

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Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the public was deluged with misinformation about the COVID-19 virus and potential responses to it, particularly on social media. Though rampant misinformation on social media is disturbing, it is perhaps more troubling when, as Professors Claudia Haupt and Wendy Parmet have explored, such misinformation is endorsed and shared by medical professionals, government health officials, and elected representatives. Most discussions of misinformation in any of these forms have focused on how misinformation may have impacted individual decisions, such as the decision to get vaccinated or to wear a mask. This presentation will focus instead on how misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic shaped laws that remain in effect and now constrain the government’s ability to respond to a wide

range of public health issues. This presentation will also consider the ways in which misinformation has historically shaped law, and whether the instrumentalization of misinformation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic constituted a novel phenomenon.