The Democratic National Committee and other allies of President Joe Biden are reportedly planning to “work with SMS carriers to dispel misinformation about vaccines,” according to a new report.
The effort, reported Monday in Politico, comes as the Biden administration struggles to boost vaccination rates after failing to meet its July 4 goal. As Politico reports:
Biden allied groups, including the Democratic National Committee, are also planning to engage fact-checkers more aggressively and work with SMS carriers to dispel misinformation about vaccines that is sent over social media and text messages. The goal is to ensure that people who may have difficulty getting a vaccination because of issues like transportation see those barriers lessened or removed entirely.
After the Politico report was published, a spokesperson for the DNC told the Associated Press that they do not have access to private text messages. An author of the Politico report has also clarified on Twitter, in response to questions, that the news report does not say that the government is monitoring anyone’s text messages.
The White House said Tuesday that it intended to adopt a “door-to-door” vaccination awareness strategy, an announcement that raised alarm among many that the federal government was tapping into private medical records and sending federal agents to the homes of the unvaccinated. The White House has since clarified its operation, saying that it targets communities where vaccination rates are low and uses local “trusted messengers,” not federal agents. Psaki has denied having access to private medical records.
Critics have hammered the White House over the plan. Psaki has accused critics of spreading “inaccurate disinformation” about the White House’s strategy and appeared to push companies to take action against such messaging.
In a Friday press conference, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki called the dissemination of “disinformation” a “disservice to the country.” “The failure to provide accurate public health information, including the efficacy of vaccines and the accessibility of them to people across the country … is literally killing people,” she said.
The Politico report cited several instances in which mass messaging services and media platforms were used to amplify messages from GOP politicians or pundits. One conservative group, focusing on college and university campuses, has reportedly used SMS services to push out petitions for its supporters to sign. In one such message, Politico noted, the group used SMS to ask followers to sign a petition blasting the administration’s “door-to-door” vaccine program: “Biden is sending goons DOOR-TO-DOOR to make you take a Covid-19 vaccine. Sign the petition to: No medical raids in America.”
Missouri Governor Mike Parson also slammed Biden’s vaccination campaign strategy in a tweet last week.
“I have directed our health department to let the federal government know that sending government employees or agents door-to-door to compel vaccination would NOT be an effective OR a welcome strategy in Missouri!” Parson said.
“We will continue to offer convenient vaccination options to all Missourians for those who want a COVID-19 vaccine. Teresa and I both have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and we encourage anyone age 12 and up to get vaccinated to protect themselves and those around them,” he continued.
White House COVID response director Jeff Zients responded to Parson’s criticism during a press conference, saying, “Organizations that are feeding misinformation and trying to mischaracterize this type of trusted-messenger work, I believe you are doing a disservice to the country and to the doctors, the faith leaders, community leaders, and others who are working to get people vaccinated, save lives, and help end this pandemic.”
A previous version of this article stated that Biden allies were pushing for “social media companies and SMS carriers to censor vaccine disinformation spread on their platforms.” It has been revised to quote directly from the Politico report, and updated to include additional information.