Joe Biden clarified his comment about the spread of misinformation on social media platforms, drawing pushback from Facebook after the president seemed to suggest that it was “killing people” by letting false claims about the Covid-19 spread across its platform.
On Friday, Biden was asked, “On the topic of disinformation, what’s your message to platforms like Facebook?” He responded, “They’re killing people. Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people.”
Biden said on Monday that he was reacting to a report that 60% of the misinformation about the vaccine on Facebook came from 12 individuals.
“Facebook isn’t killing people,” Biden said. “These 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad infiomation. My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally that somehow I am saying that Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation. … That’s what I meant.”
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After Biden’s Friday comment, Facebook released a statement from spokesperson Dani Lever in which she said, “We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts. 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.”
The citing of 12 people appeared to be a reference to a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate, which identified a group that included Joseph Mercola, Robert Kennedy Jr. and Ty and Charlene Bollinger.
The administration has called on Facebook to take a series of steps to better curb misinformation on the platform, as Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the White House has been flagging problematic posts about the vaccine. CNN’s Kaitlan Collins asked Biden whether he would hold Facebook accountable if no action is taken.
“I am not trying to hold people accountable. I am trying to make people look at themselves. Look in the mirror. Think about that misinformation going to your son, your daughter, your relative, someone you love.”