On Monday, President Joe Biden said that misinformation about vaccines on Facebook hurts people, while he partially backtracked on a statement he made last week telling reporters that platforms like Facebook are “killing people” by spreading misinformation.
“Facebook is not killing people, these 12 people are giving wrong information,” the president said, referring to an administration report last week about disinformation about online coronavirus vaccines. “That’s what I meant.”
“My hope is that instead of taking it personally, Facebook… that they would do something about the misinformation, the outrageous misinformation about the vaccine,” Biden continued.
Last week, the White House stepped up its fight against vaccine information in statements and reports that directly linked social media platforms such as Facebook to the rising number of coronavirus cases. Asked a question on social media Friday, Biden told reporters, “They’re killing people… the only pandemic we have is an unvaccinated one, and they’re killing people.” This statement was widely received as a criticism of Facebook, a company that White House press secretary Jen Psaki criticized last week.
A Facebook spokesperson, asked for comment, defended the company’s actions against vaccine misinformation. “We will not be distracted by accusations that are not supported by facts,” said the spokesman. “The facts show that Facebook helps save lives. Period of time.”
Tensions between the White House and Facebook have been rising for months a report of The New York Times last week. Administration officials presented Facebook CrowdTangle data suggesting vaccine misinformation was on the rise on the platform, but Facebook has refused to share its own data with the administration.
It remains to be seen whether the White House will take more direct action to influence Facebook moderation. Asked if he wants to hold Facebook directly accountable, Biden said on Monday: “I’m not trying to hold people accountable. I’m trying to make people look at themselves in the mirror.” He continued: “Think about that misinformation that goes to your son, your daughter, your relative, someone you love. That’s all I’m asking.”