- President Joe Biden said Friday that social media companies are “killing people” by allowing misinformation to spread.
- The U.S. Surgeon General and Biden’s press secretary made similar pleas to take COVID-19 misinformation seriously.
As COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated populations surge nationwide, the White House is pointing its finger at social media companies allowing misinformation about vaccines to spread.
“They’re killing people,” President Joe Biden said when asked by NBC News what his message is to platforms like Facebook on COVID-19 misinformation. “The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people.”
In a statement, Facebook said that the company won’t 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,” Facebook spokesperson Kevin McAlister told USA TODAY”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.”
Though COVID-19 misinformation has permeated social media since the pandemic’s first weeks, its impact has proven especially deadly.
A 2021 study published in the science journal Nature found that exposure to misinformation led to a 6.4% decline in Americans’ intent to “definitely” accept a vaccine. According to an analysis by the Associated Press, almost all COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are among unvaccinated people.
In his first advisory of the Biden administration, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy urged Americans Thursday to take false claims about COVID-19 seriously.
“Health misinformation is an urgent threat to public health,” Murthy said. “It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, and undermine public health efforts, including our ongoing work to end the COVID-19 pandemic. As Surgeon General, my job is to help people stay safe and healthy, and without limiting the spread of health misinformation, American lives are at risk.”
Murthy further condemned tech and social media companies, saying they “must do more to address the spread” of falsehoods on their platforms.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki took similar aim at social media platforms at her Thursday and Friday press briefings.
“Our biggest concern, and frankly I think it should be your biggest concern, is the number of people who are dying around the country because they are getting misinformation that is leading them to not take a vaccine,” Psaki said during Friday’s daily press briefing. “Young people, old people, kids, children … a lot of them are being impacted by misinformation.”
A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data determined all 50 states reported more COVID-19 cases in the most recent 7-day period than in the week before – a 70% spike overall. A little less than half of the U.S. population, 48.4%, is fully vaccinated, and a little more than half, 55.9%, has at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Biden aimed to have 70% of American adults at least half-vaccinated by the 4th of July, but the country did not meet his administration’s goal.
Source: USA Today – Breaking News