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Letter: Media should shut down comment sections on COVID articles

SHARE Letter: Media should shut down comment sections on COVID articles
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Protesters gather outside of the Governor’s Mansion Governor’s Mansion in Salt Lake City on Monday, Nov. 9, 2020, to protest Gov. Gary Herbert’s mask mandate and new COVID-19 restrictions.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

The misinformation that continues to spread among the comments sections of each and every COVID-19 article in our local newspapers is appalling. I implore our local media to discuss this grave issue among their editorial team, then shut down the comments sections of all published COVID-19 articles. Much harm has already been falsely spread in our fight against this virus here in Utah; however, we are at a fresh new point with this week’s statewide mandates made by Gov. Herbert, and now is the time to eradicate this avenue for influencing others to neglect these safety mandates through inaccurate commentary.

Recently, Dr. Fauci applauded Vermont for the handling of the virus. As pointed out in The New York Times, this success came from Vermont’s two strong local media organizations taking an “intriguing step early in the pandemic” to “shut down their comments sections, to prevent misinformation from spreading.” Vermonters have not allowed the virus to be politicized, and the vast majority heed the advice of medical experts, unlike many here in Utah. There are other reasons for the state’s success. Regardless of these differences, Utah can apply one key strategy from Vermont in a very simplistic manner: Allow science and medical advice to prevail to the public by eliminating the noneducated public from commenting on COVID-19 articles.

Closing down comments can feel like a slippery slope in allowing citizens the right to voice their opinions. Thankfully, this right has been adopted as an essential part of our Constitution, and a variety of more appropriate outlets exist for those seeking to use their freedom of speech, including writing to their elected officials, composing a letter to an editor, or writing a commentary in a local publication — all of which are overseen and monitored before consideration of publishing is given.

This small step can greatly aid our medical professionals in fighting to lower the alarming number of cases driven by mob mentality of misinformation about the virus and the new statewide mandate.

Jennifer Farrell

Salt Lake City