Dr. Daniel Stock, a state doctor, made a litany of false claims about the coronavirus in front of a local school board in central Indiana this month. He announced that the recent surge in cases had shown that the vaccines were ineffective, that people were better off with a cocktail of drugs and supplements to prevent hospitalization from the virus, and that masks did nothing to help prevent the spread to prevent infection.
His appearance has since become one of the most watched videos of misinformation about the coronavirus. The videos – several versions are available online – have almost 100 million likes and shares on Facebook, 6.2 million views on Twitter, at least 2.8 million views on YouTube and over 940,000 video views on Instagram.
The popularity of his talk points to one of the most striking paradoxes of the pandemic. Although many doctors are struggling to save the lives of people infected with Covid-19, a tiny number of their medical peers have been overshadowing the influence of spreading false and misleading information about the virus and vaccines.
Now there is a growing reputation among medical groups for disciplining doctors who disseminate false information. The Federation of State Medical Boards, which represents the groups that license and discipline doctors, recommended last month that states consider action against doctors who make false medical claims, including the suspension or revocation of medical licenses. The American Medical Association says that spreading misinformation is against the code of ethics that licensed physicians agree to agree to.
“When a doctor speaks, people pay attention,” said Dr. Humayun Chaudhry, President of the Federation of State Medical Boards. “The title of doctor gives credibility to what people say to the general public. That is why it is so important that these doctors do not spread misinformation. “
Dr. Stock joined doctors like Dr. Joseph Mercola and a group called America’s Frontline Doctors to generate huge audiences for their fake claims. Testimony from them and others contributed to the hesitant vaccination and mask resistance that made the pandemic in the United States worse, public health officials say.
Doctors often wear lab coats and use simplified medical jargon to give authority. They often take advantage of a willing audience online by streaming press conferences live, and keep interest awake by promising new evidence, exposing corruption, and backing up their arguments.
Some state medical associations have disciplined doctors for their behavior during the pandemic. In December, the Oregon Medical Board ordered the immediate suspension of a doctor’s medical license after violating a state order by not wearing a mask or asking patients to wear masks. The ruling bans the doctor from practicing medicine in Oregon until the governor lifts the state of emergency imposed on the pandemic.
In January, a San Francisco doctor who falsely claimed that 5G technology caused the pandemic volunteered to surrender his license to the California Medical Board.
“Disseminating false Covid-19 information to the public can be viewed as unprofessional behavior and a cause for disciplinary action,” Carlos Villatoro, a spokesman for the Medical Board of California, said in a statement.
But dr. Chaudhry said it was impossible to know how many states were investigating doctors who spread misinformation. Such investigations are usually not published until a decision is made and the process can take many months.
Dr. Floor, 59, did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this article. He has been a licensed physician in Indiana since 1989, one year after graduating from Indiana University School of Medicine. According to a profile on LinkedIn, he has worked in several hospitals, emergency centers, and private practices across the state.
Aug. 27, 2021, 11:20 p.m. ET
On the website of Dr. On the 1st floor, he stands out from conventional medicine. “By introducing patients to all of the treatment options – be it a pill, lifestyle change, therapy, or dietary supplement – I help patients choose the option that works best for them,” the website says. “This results in a permanent cure, not just the temporary relief found in the traditional system.” He sells dozens of vitamins and supplements on the website.
In the video that circulated widely this month, Dr. Stock is shown speaking at a board meeting of the Mount Vernon Community School Corporation in Fortville, east of Indianapolis. Standing with his back to the camera and speaking in a fast, almost monotonous clip, he begins his statement with the line: “Everything that is recommended by the CDC actually contradicts the rules of science.” Giving the impression that widespread medical advice such as masking and vaccination is not working.
YouTube, which bans videos that spread false information about the virus, said it would not remove the full video of the meeting that the school board put online. “While we have clear guidelines on how to remove harmful Covid-19 misinformation, we also recognize the importance of organizations such as school boards using YouTube to share records from open public forums,” said Elena Hernandez, a YouTube spokeswoman.
The original video of the meeting received over 620,000 views. Previous videos from the Mount Vernon School Board on YouTube garnered only a few hundred views each.
Understand US vaccination and mask requirements
- Vaccination rules. On August 23, the Food and Drug Administration fully approved Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine for people aged 16 and over, paving the way for increased mandates in both the public and private sectors. Private companies are increasingly demanding vaccines for employees. Such mandates are legally permissible and have been confirmed in legal challenges.
- Mask rules. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in July recommended that all Americans, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks in public places indoors in areas with outbreaks, reversing the guidelines offered in May. See where the CDC guidelines would apply and where states have implemented their own mask guidelines. The battle over masks is controversial in some states, with some local leaders defying state bans.
- College and Universities. More than 400 colleges and universities require a vaccination against Covid-19. Almost all of them are in states that voted for President Biden.
- schools. Both California and New York City have introduced vaccine mandates for educational staff. A survey published in August found that many American parents of school-age children are against mandatory vaccines for students but are more likely to support masking requirements for students, teachers and staff who are not vaccinated.
- Hospitals and medical centers. Many hospitals and large health systems require their employees to have a Covid-19 vaccine, due to rising case numbers due to the Delta variant and persistently low vaccination rates in their communities, even within their workforce.
- New York City. Proof of vaccination is required by workers and customers for indoor dining, gyms, performances, and other indoor situations, though enforcement doesn’t begin until September 13. Teachers and other educational workers in the city’s vast school system are required to have at least one vaccine dose by September 27, with no weekly testing option. City hospital staff must also be vaccinated or have weekly tests. Similar rules apply to employees in New York State.
- At the federal level. The Pentagon announced that it would make coronavirus vaccinations compulsory for the country’s 1.3 million active soldiers “by mid-September at the latest. President Biden announced that all civil federal employees would need to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or undergo regular tests, social distancing, mask requirements and travel restrictions.
YouTube removed videos of the meeting that were edited to include only Dr. Stick show. But some of these versions spread widely before YouTube made that decision. According to a New York Times analysis of the available YouTube data, views increased by as much as 15,000 an hour in the days following the meeting.
People shared his talk on alternative video platforms like Bitchute and Rumble and on blogs like “Hancock County Patriots” and “DJHJ Media”. A version of the video on Twitter shared by a former advisor to former President Donald J. Trump garnered over six million views. Another was shared by Rep Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio.
Dr. Stock also appeared on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” on Fox News, reiterating the false claim that “there is no consensus that masks work – the data on it is very vague”.
Eric Sears, a spokesman for the Indiana Professional Licensing Agency, which oversees medical licensing in the state, said the Indiana Attorney General is responsible for investigating public complaints about doctors spreading Covid-19 misinformation. The attorney general’s office will report the results of these investigations to the Indiana Medical Board.
“So far, we have not been notified of a pending investigation by the Attorney General’s office. Stock informed, ”said Sears. “The board would likely not take action until an investigation by the attorney general is completed.”
David A. Keltz, a spokesman for the Indiana attorney general, said the office could not discuss whether or not complaints against Dr. Floor would be examined. Mr. Keltz said the state would only make a public statement regarding such an investigation if the office decides to file a formal complaint with the Indiana Medical Board.
Doctors who spread misinformation about coronavirus “use the credibility of their titles and medical expertise to make their arguments more authoritative,” said Rachel E. Moran, a University of Washington researcher who investigates online misinformation the Covid-19 vaccines.
“The most frustrating thing about it is how anti-vaccination campaigners tend to distrust medical professionals until it is no longer a viable strategy for them,” Moran said, noting how they regularly cast doubts on Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the director, expresses the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases.
“Then comes a ‘doctor’ who agrees with your values,” said Ms. Moran, “and suddenly this institutional expertise is credible.”
Jacob Silver and Michael H. Keller contributed to the research.