WASHINGTON – Facebook and the Biden administration became involved in an increasingly heated spat over the weekend after the administration denounced the social media giant for spreading misinformation about a Covid-19 vaccine. .
On Sunday, the surgeon, Vivek Murthy, reiterated his warning that false stories about vaccines have become a dangerous health hazard. “These platforms must recognize that they have played an important role in increasing the speed and scale with which disinformation is spreading,” Murthy said Sunday on CNN.
In a blog post on Saturday, Facebook urged the authorities to stop “pointing the finger” and lay out what they did to encourage users to get vaccinated. The social network also details how it controls lies about vaccines, which officials say have led people to refuse vaccinations.
“The Biden administration has chosen to blame some American social media companies,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, said in the post. “The reality is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the US has increased.”
Mr. Rosen added that the company’s data shows that 85% of its users in the United States have or want to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. While President Biden has set a goal of getting 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4, which the White House failed to achieve, “Facebook is not the reason this goal has been missed,” Rosen said. .
Facebook’s response drew strong condemnation of Biden’s company. Asked on Friday about the role of social media in influencing vaccinations, Mr Biden claimed in unusually strong language that the platforms are “killing people”.
“Look,” he added, “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that – and they’re killing people.”
Other White House officials have also been increasingly vocal about how social media has amplified vaccine lies.
On Thursday, Mr. Murthy accused social media companies of not doing enough to stop the spread of dangerous health misinformation, calling it a national health crisis that has left Americans vulnerable to death. Vaccination reluctance. On Friday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, also pointed out misinformation “resulting in people not getting the vaccine and people dying as a result.” She said it was the White House’s responsibility to raise the issue.
The White House declined to comment on Saturday’s Facebook blog post.
On Sunday morning, Mr Murthy also responded to allegations made by an unnamed Facebook official to CNN, saying the administration was “looking for a scapegoat for missing their vaccine target.”
The company official told CNN before Mr Murthy appeared on the news network that in private conversations Mr Murthy had “praised our work” while publicly criticizing the company.
Mr Murthy denied the description.
“I’ve been very consistent in what I’ve said to tech companies,” Mr Murthy said on CNN on Sunday morning. “When we see the steps as good, we should acknowledge those steps,” he said, adding: “But what I have also said is that it is not enough. We are still seeing a proliferation of misinformation online. “
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have long struggled with their role as speech platforms while protecting their users from disinformation campaigns, such as Russia’s attempt to influence to the presidential election or make false statements about the pandemic.
In recent months, Facebook has taken steps against anti-vaccination ads and vaccine misinformation. In October, it said it would no longer allow anti-vaccination ads on its platform. In February, the company went further and said it would remove posts with false claims about vaccines, including assertions that vaccines cause autism or that people with coronavirus will be safe. Better than vaccination.
But online misinformation about vaccines has not been weeded out. Lies have been spread that vaccines can change DNA or that vaccines don’t work.
On Saturday, Mr. Rosen said in a blog post that among Facebook users in the US, vaccine hesitancy has decreased by 50% since April and vaccine acceptance has increased 10 to 15 points. percent, or to more than 80 percent from 70 percent.
“While social media plays an important role in society, it is clear that we need a society-wide approach to end this pandemic,” Mr. Rosen said. “And facts – not accusations – will help inform that effort.”
People with knowledge of the matter said the White House’s frustration with Facebook had been growing for several months. The people said, while the Biden administration asked Facebook to share information about the spread of misinformation on the social network, the company refused to cooperate.
Brian Boland, a former Facebook vice president of partnership strategy, argued when he was at the company that the company should publicly share as much information as possible about what’s happening on its platform. . Asked on Sunday about the dispute with the White House on the CNN show “Reliable Sources,” he said, “Facebook has that data,” adding, “They looked at it.” But, he asked: “Do they see it the right way? Are they investing in the teams as fully as they need to be? “