WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden criticized Facebook and other social media platforms for allowing misinformation about Covid-19 vaccinations to spread as his administration ramps up their efforts to turn up the heat on Big Tech companies.
Speaking outside the White House before departing for Camp David, Biden was asked about the disinformation on social media sites and its relation to Covid-19 vaccinations.
“They’re killing people—I mean they’re really—look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people,” Biden said.
U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy spoke on Thursday as the White House is looking to stop wave of misinformation about Covid-19 and vaccines in its tracks. Murthy released an advisory and called the wave a ‘serious threat’.
“Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people’s health, and undermine public health efforts. Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative,” he said in the advisory.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the White House sent recommendations to Facebook and other platforms to address the spread of misinformation. According to the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), 12 individuals were super-spreaders of anti-vaccine misinformation.
A spokesperson for Facebook responded to Biden’s comments, saying they disagree with the President and said the social media giant is helping save lives.
“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.”
Fox correspondent Peter Doocy asked Psaki on Friday about the White House’s methods regarding misinformation and how the public allegedly feel ‘violated’, accusing the government of spying on the American people. Psaki shot back that there is no ‘spying’ taking place because it is all public records.
“This is publicly open information, people sharing information online, just as you are all reporting information on your news stations,” she said.
“Our biggest concern here, and I frankly think it should be your biggest concern, is the number of people who are dying around the country because they’re getting misinformation that is leading them to not take a vaccine,” she added.
Fox News has been of the biggest contributors to the spread of vaccine hesitancy. Personalities Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and Laura Ingraham have repeatedly said false statements about the Biden administration’s Covid vaccination efforts. Just this week, Carlson said Biden’s latest approach to launch a “door-to-door” vaccine drive is “the greatest scandal” and Ingraham called it “creepy stuff”.
The White House has also recommended that social media platforms share the impact of misinformation on their platforms with the American public. In addition to that, remove all harmful and misleading posts.
For its part, Facebook said it has taken “aggressive action against misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines to protect public health.”