Misinformation about the virus and vaccines has spread on platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
President Joe Biden has said social media companies are “killing people” by failing to police misinformation on their platforms about COVID-19 vaccines.
Biden’s comments came a day after US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said misinformation about vaccines poses a threat to public health and US officials said deaths and serious illnesses from the virus are nearing. completely preventable with vaccines.
Biden, who asked if he had a message for platforms like Facebook where false or misleading information about coronavirus vaccines has spread, told reporters on Friday, “They’re killing people.”
“The only pandemic we have is for the unvaccinated,” he said.
Speaking on Thursday, Murthy said misinformation about COVID-19, considered an “infodemic” by the World Health Organization (WHO), was deadly.
“Misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to the health of our nation,” Murthy said during a White House speech Thursday. “We have to confront disinformation as a nation. Lives depend on it.
Given the role the internet plays in spreading misinformation about health, Murthy said tech companies and social media platforms need to make meaningful changes to their products and software to reduce the spread of misinformation while increasing access to authoritative and fact-based sources.
Too often, he said, platforms are constructed to encourage, not thwart, the spread of misinformation.
“We’re asking them to step in,” Murthy said. “We can’t wait any longer for them to take aggressive action.”
Facebook spokesperson Dani Lever replied, “We will not be distracted by accusations that are not supported by facts. The fact is, more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, more than any other place on the internet. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder to find out where and how to get vaccinated. The facts show that Facebook helps save lives. Period.”
Twitter posted on its platform: “As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves around the world, we will continue to do our part to improve authoritative health information.”
We agree, @general surgeon. Addressing health misinformation requires a whole-of-society approach. Thank you for your leadership.
– Twitter Public Policy (@Policy) July 15, 2021
The Delta variant of the coronavirus is now the dominant strain in the world, accompanied by a wave of deaths in the United States almost entirely among unvaccinated people, US officials said on Friday.
US cases of COVID-19 are up 70% from the previous week and deaths are up 26%, with outbreaks occurring in parts of the country with low vaccination rates.
Earlier Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki also criticized Facebook.
“Obviously there are actions they have taken. It’s a private sector business,” Psaki said during a White House briefing. “There are additional steps they can take. Clearly there are others that can be taken.
On Thursday, she said the Biden administration was in regular contact with Facebook and flagging problematic posts.
PSAKI said 12 people were responsible for nearly 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. The finding was reported in May by the Washington- and London-based nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate, but Facebook disputed the methodology.