Facebook responded to claims made by President Joe Biden and his administration this week that the social media platform was not doing enough to combat vaccine misinformation, saying that the administration was looking for “scapegoats” to blame after the administration failed to reach its vaccine goals.
When asked about his thoughts about misinformation on Facebook, Biden told a reporter, “They’re killing people.”
“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people,” Biden added.
“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” Facebook said in response.
“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.”
A short time later, a Facebook official told NBC News: “In private exchanges the Surgeon General has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about COVID-19. They knew what they were doing. The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals.”
FACEBOOK official: "In private exchanges the Surgeon General has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about COVID-19. They knew what they were doing. The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals.”
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) July 16, 2021
Biden has since clarified his language about social media, telling reporters on Monday that Facebook wasn’t killing people, and talked about an article on Facebook misinformation he read.
“Facebook, of all the misinformation, sixty percent of the misinformation came from 12 individuals. That’s what the article said. So I was asked that question about what do I think is happening. Facebook isn’t killing people. These 12 people are out there giving misinformation, anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it, it’s killing people, its bad information,” said Biden.
“My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally, that somehow I’m saying that Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation, the outrageous misinformation about the vaccine,” he added.
The statements from Facebook did not address statements from White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki this week about the administration reaching out to social media companies and flagging posts for them that the administration deemed to be problematic. Psaki even said that if a person is banned from one social media platform, they should be banned from other platforms as well.
“I would say first, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that we’re in regular touch with social media platforms, just like we’re in regular touch with all of you and your media outlets about areas where we have concern, information that might be useful, information that may or may not be interesting to your viewers, you all make decisions, just like the social media platforms make decisions, even though they’re a private sector company and different, but just as an example,” Psaki said. “So 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.”
Psaki then mocked the notion that people are concerned about not being spied on by the government when a reporter mentioned that people are worried that “now this is big brother watching you.”
“They’re more concerned about that than people dying across the country because of a pandemic where misinformation is traveling on social media platforms?” Psaki said. “That feels unlikely to me, if you have the data to back that up. I’m happy to discuss it.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.