Biden Walks Back Claims Of Facebook Misinformation Is ‘Killing People’

Biden Walks Back Claims Of Facebook Misinformation Is ‘Killing People’

Mona Salama
Mona Salama
|
July 19, 2021

President Biden appeared to walk back comments he made just days ago in accusing Facebook of “killing people” for allowing in what he claims are the spread of misinformation regarding the COVID-19 vaccines, attempting to clarify that he really meant to blame a dozen social media users for being able to post the “bad information.”

Following remarks on the state of economy as the market plummeted in its worst day of 2021, Biden was asked to clarify his previous controversial claim made Friday where he shifted the blame from Facebook to a dozen active users. The president emphasized the target of about a dozen who are deemed to be the spreaders of harmful misinformation, referencing report that he read from the “Center for Countering Digital Hate.” The report identifies in what they dubbed “the disinformation dozen” that are “producing 65 percent of anti-vaccine misinformation.”

“Mr. President, you said last week, that companies and platforms like Facebook are killing people by letting,” a reporter asked Biden before he cut her off where he contradicted his prior claim.

“I meant precisely what I said. I’m glad you asked me that question. One, I had just read that on the Facebook, it was pointed out that Facebook of all the misinformation, 60% of the misinformation came from 12 individuals. That’s what the article said,” Biden said in response Monday.

“So, I was asked that question about what do I think has happened? Facebook isn’t killing people. These 12 people who are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It’s killing people. It’s bad information,” Biden added.

On Friday, Biden stirred controversy with Facebook after he place the blame solely on the big tech company as the ones responsible for deaths caused by anti-vaccine post shared on its platform.

“They’re killing people,” Biden responded when asked Friday on “what’s [his] message to” Facebook on COVID misinformation. “Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that they’re killing people.”

Friday’s comment comes just after White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Thursday that the Biden administration has been “in regular touch” with the social media site urging them to increase censorship of what they deem is “misinformation” regarding the COVID vaccine. Psaki admitted that the Biden administration has been “flagging problematic posts for Facebook that spread disinformation,” before suggesting that social media users who are banned from one platform site due to spreading misinformation should be banned on all other platforms.

Facebook on Friday quickly responded to the president’s accusation were not “supported by the facts,” and touted the platform’s tool that they said helped users “find out where” to get the COVID vaccine.

“We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement Friday. “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.”

Over the weekend, Facebook also published a long blog post titled, “Moving Past the Finger Pointing,” calling out the Biden administration to stop “finger pointing,” as it laid out its defense against the president’s accusation.

“The Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, said in the blog post. “The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the U.S. has increased. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed.”

Biden also noted Monday that Facebook shouldn’t take his remarks “personally,” and instead should focus on being more proactive

“My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally, somehow I’m saying Facebook is killing me people, that they would do something about the misinformation. The outrageous misinformation about the vaccine. That’s what I meant,” Biden said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday reiterated Biden’s earlier remarks as she sought to deescalate the tension with Facebook, stating the president wants the big tech company to be more reflective about the role their company plays in misinformation, no decisions to get involved have been made.

The administration isn’t considering any regulatory or legal moves to possibly address disinformation on social media,” Psaki said during Monday’s press briefing. “That’s up to Congress to determine how they want to proceed moving forward.”

“But let me just note that we are not in a war or a battle with Facebook,” Psaki added. “We’re in a battle with the virus and the problem we’re seeing that our surgeon general elevated just last week is that disinformation traveling through a range of mediums. Some of them are a range of social media platforms.”

Mona Salama

Mona Salama

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