Joe Biden tempered his assessment that social media platforms are ‘killing people’ by harboring misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines, saying on Monday he hoped they wouldn’t take it ‘personally’ and instead act to save lives.
As companies like Facebook defend their practices and say they are helping people around the world gain access to verified information about the shootings, the White House says they haven’t done enough to stop the misinformation that contributed to slow the pace of new vaccinations in the United States for a trickle. It comes as the United States sees an increase in virus cases and deaths among those who have not been vaccinated, in what officials are calling an “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”
Speaking at the White House, Biden insisted he meant “precisely what I said” when he said on Friday of tech giants that “they were killing people.” But he said the purpose of his rhetoric was to step up pressure on companies to take action.
“My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally that somehow I’m saying ‘Facebook is killing people’, that they do something about disinformation,” Biden said.
A March report from the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate and cited by the White House last week found that 12 online personalities, dubbed the “Dozen of Misinformation,” are responsible for the vast majority of misinformation and misinformation. Covid-19 vaccine conspiracy theories.
“Facebook doesn’t kill people. These 12 people are there to give misinformation, whoever listens to them suffers, it kills people, ”Biden said. “This is bad information. “
Biden’s comments come as the White House struggled to counter resistance to getting a photo, especially among younger and more Republican populations. Fewer than 400,000 Americans receive their first dose of vaccine each day, up from more than 2 million a day in April. More than 90 million eligible people did not receive a dose.
Last week, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said vaccine misinformation poses a deadly threat to public health.
“Disinformation is an imminent and insidious threat to the health of our country,” Murthy said in a speech Thursday at the White House. “We need to fight disinformation as a nation. Lives depend on it. “
Murthy said tech companies and social media platforms need to make significant changes to their products and software to reduce the spread of false information while increasing access to authoritative factual sources.
Too often, he said, platforms are built in such a way as to encourage the spread of disinformation.
“We are asking them to step up,” Murthy said. “We cannot wait any longer for them to take aggressive action. “
Facebook responded to Biden’s attack on Friday, with spokesperson Kevin McAlister saying, “The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period. “
The company also published a blog post saying that its internal research showed it was not responsible for Biden’s missed vaccination target. “Data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the United States have been or wish to be vaccinated against Covid-19. President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki insisted on Monday: “We are not in a war or a battle against Facebook – we are in a battle against the virus. But she has stepped up pressure on companies to share information about how many Americans are exposed to disinformation on their platforms and how their secret and powerful algorithms promote fake content to users.
“Do you have access to the information from these platforms to know who is receiving the wrong information? ” she asked. “I don’t think this information was disclosed. Do you know how the algorithms work on any of these platforms? I don’t think this information was disclosed.
The Associated Press contributed reporting