President Joe Biden on Monday clarified comments from last week, saying Facebook isn’t “killing” people, but COVID-19 misinformation is.
“My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally — that somehow I’m saying, ‘Facebook is killing people’ — that they would do something about the misinformation,” he said during a press conference.
Last Friday, when asked by a reporter what message he had for social media giants as misinformation about the coronavirus swirls, Biden said, “They’re killing people. I mean, it really — look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated and they’re killing people.”
Last Thursday afternoon, press secretary Jen Psaki had said Facebook is not doing enough to stop the spread of misinformation about the virus and the COVID-19 vaccine. Psaki cited a May finding by the Center for Countering Digital Hate that said 12 accounts were responsible for almost 65% of anti-vaccine content and misinformation. Psaki called on the platform to “move more quickly to remove harmful violative posts.”
“Facebook isn’t killing people,” Biden said Friday, citing that same report. “These 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information.”
On Saturday, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, published a blog post titled, “Moving Past the Finger Pointing” in which he said “the Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies.”
Rosen wrote, “While social media plays an important role in society, it is clear that we need a whole of society approach to end this pandemic. And facts — not allegations — should help inform that effort. The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the US has increased. These and other facts tell a very different story to the one promoted by the administration in recent days.”
He cited a collaborative survey between Facebook and Carnegie Mellon University and University of Maryland that has relied on over 70 million total responses to gather insights about COVID-19 symptoms, testing, vaccination rates and more. The survey has found, he said, that for American Facebook users, vaccine hesitancy has declined by 50% and American users are becoming more accepting of vaccines every day.