FDA commish Califf implores: Don't 'abandon Twitter' amid 'troubling times' on the platform

FDA Commissioner Robert Califf, M.D., used to be a quiet, highly reserved figure on Twitter during his first tenure as the head of the agency. But the second time around, he’s fully embraced the social media platform, and is now imploring users to stay on the site.

Califf, who was FDA commish under President Barack Obama from February 2016 to January 2017 and now again under President Joe Biden from this February, said in a series of tweets that: “The easy thing to do would be to abandon using Twitter, but that’s not the right thing for us to do at this time.

“More than ever before, it’s important that FDA continues to use Twitter for good and do everything in our power to protect the public from potential harm.”

He said he understands, however, that these “are troubling times,” and that “the kind of divisive and hateful language that we’ve seen on Twitter in recent days is alarming. It’s entirely unacceptable, and I fear for the health of our fellow citizens targeted by these attacks.”

Califf added that: “I grew up in the segregated South, and our society is still struggling to progress past a part of the history that I experienced first-hand. There’s absolutely no place for racism or antisemitism in our society.”

Misinformation, notably medical misinformation, is something the FDA has been trying to defend against for years, and never more so than over the past two years amid COVID-19 and vaccines for the disease. Both have been the subject of misinformation on Twitter and other social media platforms.

Califf said he does truly "believe in the power of social media being used for good.” Because of that, he and the FDA “will continue to post accurate health information. We’ll continue to provide accurate info to inform decision-making.”

He ended on an almost poetic note: “I encourage you to use your voices to bring that light to the surface to drown out the darkness. Be a part of the solution.”