U.S President Joe Biden has expressed disappointment on big social media platforms like Facebook for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines.
“They’re killing people,” the president said when asked what his message was to social media platforms like Facebook on the spread of false and misleading claims about the virus and the safety of vaccines that prevent it.
“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that’s — they’re killing people,” he continued.
But Facebook disagrees with the president. The company released a statement on Friday arguing that Facebook is actually saving lives, not ending them.
“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” a company spokesman said. “The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”
Reporter: "What's your message to platforms like Facebook?"
President Biden: "They're killing people." pic.twitter.com/jrAvQpG7i0
— The Hill (@thehill) July 16, 2021
President Biden’s statement comes as health officials are voicing concern over rising cases of the coronavirus and stalling vaccination rates.
Earlier of Friday, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky announced 36% increase in hospitalizations and 26% increase in deaths due to the coronavirus in the past week. Walensky made the announcement during a briefing by the White House coronavirus response team.
“We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage because unvaccinated people are at risk, and communities that are fully-vaccinated are generally faring well,” he said. “Our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations, and sadly, deaths, among the unvaccinated.”
The U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy had on Thursday issued his first advisory raising alarm regarding the spread of false information about COVID-19 and how misinformation is working against government’s efforts to fight the deadly virus.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki also accused Facebook on Thursday of not doing enough to stop the growing rate of false information about the coronavirus and the vaccines.
“So we’re regularly making sure social media platforms are aware of the latest narratives, dangerous to public health that we and many other Americans are seeing across all of social and traditional media,” Psaki said. “And we work to engage with them to better understand the enforcement of social media platform policies.”
She added, “As you all know information travels quite quickly. If it’s up there for days and days and days. When people see it, you know, there’s, it’s hard to put that back in a box, and of course, promoting quality information algorithms, I don’t know how they work, but they all do know how they work.”
Psaki said the White House made a number of recommendations to Facebook and other platforms to address the spread of misinformation, including removing 12 people who she said were responsible for almost 65 percent of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.
A spokesperson for Facebook responded to Psaki’s comments, saying the company has taken “aggressive action against misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines to protect public health.”
The spokesperson said Facebook “removed more than 18 million pieces of COVID misinformation, removed accounts that repeatedly break these rules, and connected more than 2 billion people to reliable information about COVID-19 and COVID vaccines across our apps.”
When asked whether the White House found those actions sufficient, Psaki said, “Clearly not because we’re talking about additional steps that should be taken.”