Biden mitigates the misinformation “they kill individuals” comment on Fb
- Biden initially suggested that Facebook “killed people” by failing to monitor misinformation about vaccines.
- It came when his government said health misinformation was an urgent threat.
- Facebook said the president’s remarks were misplaced.
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden softened his criticism of Facebook Monday days after he said the platform was killing people over vaccine misinformation the social media giant circulated on its platform.
During an independent event on economics, Biden took the opportunity to clear up his previous comment and shift the blame from Facebook to a dozen people he said make the most of the misleading claims circulating.
“Facebook doesn’t kill people,” Biden said when asked by a reporter. “Those 12 people out there giving misinformation – anyone who hears them will be hurt by it.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki echoed the president’s turnaround, stating that the White House was not “in a war or battle with Facebook.”
“We are in a battle with the virus,” she said.
Last week, Psaki went a tougher line.
“Our biggest concern, and frankly I think it should be your biggest concern, is the number of people dying across the country from receiving misinformation that leads them not to take the vaccine,” said Psaki am Friday.
Also last week, US surgeon General Vivek Murthy used the first warning since taking office to warn that health misinformation poses an urgent public health threat.
His recommendation, a move reserved for “significant public health challenges” requiring immediate attention, urged social media companies to share their misinformation data in order to better handle the situation. Murthy also said platforms should redesign their algorithms to avoid amplifying incorrect content.
Biden sparked controversy on Friday when he made the first comments in response to a reporter’s question about what message he had about vaccine misinformation for social media companies like Facebook.
“They kill people – I mean, they really are, you see, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Biden told reporters.
Facebook was quick to respond, saying on Friday that the president’s allegation was not “backed by the facts” and praised its efforts to share accurate information about COVID-19.
“The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, more than any other place on the Internet,” spokesman Kevin McAlister told USA TODAY. “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.”
Biden said Monday that Facebook officials should be less defensive and more proactive about vaccine falsehoods. He hopes the company will respond to the “outrageous misinformation” circulating on the website.
“That’s what I meant,” he repeated.