‘They’re killing folks’ with vaccine misinformation

President Joe Biden on Friday said platforms like Facebook are killing people by allowing Covid-19 vaccine misinformation on their services.

Asked what his message was to platforms like Facebook regarding Covid disinformation, Biden said “They’re killing people.”

“I mean they really, look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that’s — they’re killing people,” Biden said on the South Lawn of the White House.

Biden was echoing earlier comments from White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

“We’re dealing with a life or death issue here and so everybody has a role to play in making sure there’s accurate information,” Psaki said. “They’re a private sector company. They’re going to make decisions about additional steps they can take. It’s clear there are more that can be taken.”

Psaki’s comments come one day after she said the Biden administration was flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread misinformation.

“We are regularly making sure social media platforms are aware of the latest narratives dangerous to public health that we and many other Americans are seeing across all of social and traditional media,” she said. “We work to engage with them to better understand the enforcement of social media platform policy.”

One example Psaki highlighted is the spread of a false narrative that says coronavirus vaccines cause infertility.

“This is troubling but a persistent narrative that we and many have seen, and we want to know that the social media platforms are taking steps to address it,” Psaki said. “That is inaccurate, false information.”

Psaki noted additional steps Facebook and other social media services can take to combat misinformation. This includes publicly sharing the impact of misinformation on their services, promoting quality information, and taking faster action against harmful posts.

“As you all know, information travels quite quickly,” she said. “If it’s up there for days and days and days, when people see it  — it’s hard to put that back in a box.”

Facebook spoke out against the claims made by the White House.

“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” a spokesperson 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.”

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