LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A Democrat running for attorney general in Arkansas, where health officials have struggled with resistance to the coronavirus vaccine, on Monday vowed if elected to take social media companies to court for spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
Jesse Gibson focused on COVID-19 misinformation in his first 30-second ad, which he said began airing online and on cable stations over the weekend.
“Big corporations and big tech are profiting off the very spread of misinformation that puts Arkansas families and communities at risk, hurts our small businesses, and costs our economy,” Gibson said in the ad.
Gibson said he was concerned about misinformation about the vaccine's effectiveness as well as ivermectin, anti-parasitic drug that health officials have warned against using as a COVID-19 treatment. He said he believed the social media companies could be targeted under the state's deceptive trade practices and false advertising laws.
Gibson's proposal follows concerns raised by health officials about the spread of false information about the virus and vaccines. U.S. Surgeon General General Vivek Murthy earlier this year declared misinformation about vaccines a threat to public health.
Arkansas' vaccination rate has lagged behind the rest of the country, with about 45% of the state's population fully vaccinated against COVID-19. Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson has held town halls around the state to convince people to get vaccinated.
Gibson is the only Democrat running for attorney general. The state’s current Republican attorney general, Leslie Rutledge, is running for governor. Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin and former state Fair Housing Commission Director Leon Jones are running for the GOP nomination to succeed her.