WASHINGTON – President Biden addressed his growing frustration with social media on Friday, saying platforms like Facebook are “killing people” by allowing misinformation about vaccines. coronavirus spreads online.
Mr. Biden’s powerful statement has tempered weeks of anger in the White House about the dissemination of vaccine misinformation online, even as vaccination rates slow and health officials warn of the dangers. increased muscle of the Delta variant.
Just before boarding Marine One for the weekend at Camp David in Maryland, Mr. Biden was asked his message to social media platforms when it comes to Covid-19 misinformation.
“They are killing people,” he said. “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that – and they’re killing people.”
Biden’s comments signal a more aggressive approach to vaccine hesitancy after weeks of persuading Americans to get vaccinated and sending officials and volunteers door-to-door to encourage people to get vaccinated. injector. He spoke a day after the US surgeon general used his first official advice to criticize tech and social media companies for preventing dangerous health information from showing up. urgent threat to public health.”
The Biden administration has warned of the spread of misinformation about vaccines and the coronavirus from a variety of sources, including politicians and news outlets. But this week, White House officials went further and singled out social media companies for allowing misinformation to spread. That comes after weeks of failed attempts to get Facebook to turn over details of what mechanisms are in place to combat vaccine misinformation, according to a person familiar with the matter. .
“Our view is that there’s information that leads to people not getting the vaccine and people dying as a result,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said before Biden’s comment. . “And as a public health issue, we have a responsibility to raise it.”
The spread of misinformation has become the latest flashpoint for social media companies. Facebook and other social media sites have struggled as a speaking platform while protecting their users from disinformation campaigns, like Russia’s attempt to influence the election. president or make false statements about the pandemic.
Facebook denied the president’s assertion.
“We will not be distracted by allegations that are not supported by facts,” said Dani Lever, a spokesman for the company. She points to efforts to promote authoritative information about Covid-19 and vaccines that two billion people on the platform have viewed.
Conservative figures in the news media and political leaders have not supported Democrats’ calls to clamp down on those who spread disinformation, calling the actions a censorship and political bias.
A day before Mr Biden’s statement, Ms Psaki said the Biden administration had flagged “problematic posts on Facebook that spread misinformation”, raising questions about how the White House balances Tu’s rights. The first judgment of people online with messaging undermines public health. .
Ms. Psaki said the administration has recommended to the platforms that they form an enforcement strategy against those promoting false claims about the pandemic, adding that 12 people generate 65% of antivaccine misinformation on social networks is still active on Facebook. Ms. Psaki appears to be referring to a statistic from the Center against Digital Hate, a nonprofit that fights misinformation.
“You shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not another,” Ms. Psaki said.
In response to a question on Friday about the possibility of the federal government acting aggressively in encouraging Facebook to take down posts, Ms. Psaki said it was a matter of public health.
“We’ve been fundraising for them in our direct channels, where every administration has with every social media platform, that we’re seeing this trend,” she said. “It’s troublesome. That information is incorrect”.
Since January, senior White House officials, including surgeon Dr Vivek Murthy, have been negotiating with the social media company to prevent the spread of false stories about Vaccination side effects and other harms.
According to a person familiar with the negotiations, despite repeated requests from the White House, Facebook doesn’t even share basic data on how much vaccine misinformation exists and whether vaccine misinformation exists. the company’s efforts to prevent the spread of the virus were effective. When regulators presented data from CrowdTangle, a content tracking tool owned by Facebook, that showed vaccine misinformation was skyrocketing, company officials dismissed the accuracy of the data. it.
In another meeting with Dr Murthy, officials at Facebook noted that they were trying to attract “influencers” with large audiences to promote vaccinations, as a clear motivation against misinformation, people familiar with the meetings said. Dr. Murthy angrily said that while the company pushed forward with efforts to encourage vaccination, it did not do enough to protect against bad news.
During a tense meeting in late spring, according to a person familiar with the matter, a Facebook official replied in defense, “How do you know if your efforts are working?”
Biden’s comments on Friday come as less than 50% of Americans are fully immunized and many leading health experts have called for the president to do more to reach the unvaccinated.
While hospitalizations remain low compared to the peak of the pandemic, local hotspots are emerging as public health officials warn of the spread of the Delta variant. Republican leaders, some of whom have spread misinformation about vaccines, have begun to speak out more strongly in favor of vaccination as the virus spreads through conservative communities. These vaccines are effective against the Delta variant.
The White House has sought to promote a essentially campaign-like effort to encourage Americans to get vaccinated, enlisting volunteers who go door-to-door to provide accurate vaccine information.
Administration officials are particularly concerned about rates of hesitation among young people, even recruiting 18-year-old pop star Olivia Rodrigo to the White House this week to encourage vaccination.
The White House has also sent top officials around the country to promote the vaccine, with some officials even making the case on social media.