Alex Keuroghlian, MD, MPH, is the author of a new perspective in The New England Journal of Medicine that details the efforts of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School (HMS) leaders to counter a multipronged and systematic disinformation campaign about an HMS course, “Caring for Patients with Diverse Sexual Orientations, Gender Identities and Sex Development: A Clinical and Scholarly Effective.”

Keuroghlian, director of the Division of Public and Community Psychiatry at Mass General and an associate professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, has been director of the HMS course for the past six years.

The article, “Countering the Health Disinformation Machine,” describes how hospital and medical school leaders, security and law enforcement agencies, and news organizations worked collaboratively to counter false online reports about the course.

“When activity in the disinformation echo chamber reached fever pitch, a journalist from the Associated Press Fact Check team reached out to ask what the course really teaches,” Keuroghlian writes. “The reporter carefully researched the course’s content and interviewed external medical specialists and community leaders about intersex health.”

The Associated Press then published an article correcting the online claims and providing clarity for some of the terminology and concepts included in the course descriptions. Other news organizations such as USA Today followed suit.

In this instance, the ability to withstand and counter the health disinformation campaign hinged on several key advantages, including support from leadership, funders, communications staff, security services, law enforcement agencies, diligent fact checking by journalists and a social media platform’s policy of flagging and removing disinformation, Keuroghlian writes. Read the perspective.

About the Massachusetts General Hospital

Massachusetts General Hospital, founded in 1811, is the original and largest teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School. The MGH Research Institute conducts the largest hospital-based research program in the nation, with an annual research budget of more than $1 billion and comprises more than 8,500 researchers working across more than 30 institutes, centers and departments. In August 2021 the MGH was named #5 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report in its list of "America’s Best Hospitals."