Joe Biden insisted on Monday that Facebook ‘isn’t killing people’ and instead blamed them for allowing 12 people to spread the majority of online vaccine misinformation in a climbdown from remarks he made to reporters on Friday.
‘Facebook isn’t killing people,’ Biden clarified during remarks on economic recovery at the White House on Monday.
‘These 12 people are out there giving misinformation, anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it,’ he continued. ‘It’s killing people. It’s bad information.’
‘My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally,’ Biden said, ‘that they would do something.’
Biden also assured ‘we are not in a battle with Facebook.’
Last week, when Biden was asked if he had a message for Facebook, he responded: ‘They’re killing people. I mean it really.
Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people.’
Facebook pushed back against that in a statement released Saturday, lashing out at the administration for ‘blaming a handful of American social media companies’ for the declining vaccination rate.
‘While social media plays an important role in society, it is clear that we need a whole of society approach to end this pandemic,’ Facebook’s vice president of integrity, Guy Rosen, wrote in a corporate blog post.
The White House’s top public health official also said on Sunday morning that Facebook was ‘costing’ American lives by not combating misinformation.
‘We know that health misinformation harms people’s health. It costs them their lives,’ Surgeon General Vivek Murthy told CNN. ‘I have seen that as a doctor over the years, as patients have struggled with health misinformation.’
‘And here’s the key thing to remember,’ he added when speaking with State of the Union host Dana Bash, ‘health misinformation takes away our freedom and our power to make decisions for us and for our families. And that’s a problem.’
‘The platforms have to recognize that they have played a major role in the increase in speed and scale with which misinformation is spreading.’
Murthy’s comments come after Facebook officials defended the platform on Saturday when President Biden accused social media misinformation of ‘killing people.’
On Thursday, Murthy also issued an advisory calling health misinformation an ‘urgent threat.’ He provided a 22-page ‘confronting health information’ pamphlet.
The deflection in blame also follows the administration missing Biden’s July 4 deadline to administer at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to 70 per cent of American adults – and have 160 million fully vaccinated by the mid-summer holiday