Forum on the Harms of COVID-19 Social Media Disinformation

On June 16, 2020, the Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics hosted an international Forum on the Harms of COVID-19 Social Media Disinformation. This online event, the first in a series to be hosted by IDDP in cooperation with the International Grand Committee on Disinformation, focused on false and misleading social media content regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on the health and financial security of people around the world.

Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi provided opening remarks, arguing that social media platforms are profiting from disinformation at the expense of public health. She also noted that the global pandemic has increased bipartisan support for legislation that would hold these companies and their executives accountable.

Vera Jourova, the European Commission’s Vice President for Values and Transparency also provided opening remarks. VP Jourova discussed the European Union’s recent and ongoing regulatory efforts, including a call issued last week for social media companies to submit detailed monthly reports on their efforts to fight COVID-19 related disinformation.

Speaker Pelosi’s and VP Jourova’s remarks were followed by two panels of distinguished lawmakers from the US (Rep. David Cicilline, Rep. Jan Schakowky, Sen. Patty Murray, Sen. Richard Blumenthal), UK (Member of Parliament Damian Collins), and Canada (Member of Parliament Nate Erskine-Smith), as well as witnesses from the medical and non-profit communities. Policymakers and witnesses discussed the substantial harms caused by online disinformation and considered a number of measures that might be taken to hold the platforms accountable.

The event, which was open to both media and the public engaged over 1,000 views across different platforms. 


Opening remarks:

  • Rep. Nancy Pelosi, speaker, U.S. House of Representatives
  • Vera Jourova, vice president, European Commission



  • Frank Sesno, director, GW School of Media and Public Affairs


COVID-19 public health disinformation panel:

  • Rep. David Cicilline, chairman, U.S. House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust
  • Sen. Patty Murray, ranking member, U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
  • Damian Collins, member of Parliament, United Kingdom
  • Duncan Maru, senior faculty, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai
  • Jasmine Weiss, postdoctoral fellow, Yale School of Medicine


COVID-19 scams and profiteering panel:

  • Rep. Jan Schakowsky, chair, U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Consumer Protection
  • Sen. Richard Blumenthal, member, U.S. Senate Judiciary and Commerce committees
  • Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, member of Parliament, Canada
  • Randy Smith, Reset Home house parent, Reset Mentoring
  • Sonya Stokes, assistant clinical professor of emergency medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai


Event collateral:

  • Panelists bios can be found here.
  • Social media survery results are detailed here.
  • The Tech Transparency Project Medical Disinformation report can be found here.