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'They're killing people': Biden blames Facebook, other social media for allowing Covid misinformation

The White House has warned in recent days that false claims shared on those platforms are contributing to a decline in U.S. vaccination rates.
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday criticized social media platforms like Facebook for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus and vaccines, as his administration has blamed them for stalling U.S. vaccine rates.

"They’re killing people," Biden said when asked what his message was to social media platforms like Facebook on the spread of false and misleading claims about the virus and the safety of vaccines that prevent it.

"The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that’s — they’re killing people," he continued.

Facebook took issue with the president.

"We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts," a company spokesman said. "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.”

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Thursday issued his first advisory raising alarm about the growing wave of misinformation about Covid-19 and related vaccines that threatens the administration's efforts to quell the pandemic.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday also said Facebook was not doing enough to stop the spread of false information on the coronavirus.

Psaki said the White House made a number of recommendations to Facebook and other platforms to address the spread of misinformation, including removing 12 people who she said were responsible for almost 65 percent of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms.

A spokesperson for Facebook responded to Psaki's comments, saying the company has taken "aggressive action against misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines to protect public health."

The spokesperson said Facebook "removed more than 18 million pieces of COVID misinformation, removed accounts that repeatedly break these rules, and connected more than 2 billion people to reliable information about COVID-19 and COVID vaccines across our apps."

When asked Friday whether the White House found those actions sufficient, Psaki said, "Clearly not because we're talking about additional steps that should be taken."

The White House has also recommended that social media platforms measure and publicly share the impact of misinformation on their platforms, take faster action to remove harmful posts and promote quality information sources in their feed algorithms.