Biden says platforms like Facebook “kill people”

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President Joe Biden answers a question from NBC correspondent Peter Alexander as he leaves the White House on July 16.

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

For the latest news and information on the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

President Joe Biden said Friday that technology platforms like Facebook “kill people” by allowing misinformation about them COVID-19 Vaccines for online distribution.

“They’re killing people … the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Biden said on the White House lawn.

A Facebook spokesman on Friday denied Biden’s allegations, noting that the company had referred more than 2 billion people to reliable information about COVID-19 and vaccines. Facebook has an online hub for COVID-19 information to direct people to authoritative sources. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used Facebook’s vaccine finder tool, he said.

“We don’t get distracted by accusations that aren’t backed by the facts … the facts show that Facebook helps save lives. Period, “a Facebook spokesman said in a statement.

The comments show that tensions between Facebook and the Biden government are mounting as politicians and regulators seek to contain the power of the world’s largest tech companies. Biden had criticized Facebook before winning the US presidency, told the New York Times in January 2020 that he was not a “fan” of Facebook or its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg.

Biden’s latest remarks came a day after US surgeon general Vivek Murthy issued a recommendation that health misinformation is an “urgent threat” to the public amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Although social networks like Facebook say they have stepped up their efforts to curb the spread of health misinformation, the spread of this type of content remains a problem.

The advisory released on Thursday said misinformation has hampered the U.S. response to the pandemic and prevented Americans from get vaccinated. She calls on social media companies as well as individuals to help fight health misinformation.

“As a 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 said in a press release. “From the tech and social media companies who need to do more to combat proliferation on their platforms, to all of us who identify and avoid misinformation, addressing this challenge will require a societal approach, but one that does Crucial in the long run is -timing the health of our nation. “

Murthy spoke about the consultation during a briefing at the White House Thursday. During that briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that about a dozen people create 65% of the misinformation about vaccines on social media platforms. This statistic appears to come from a May report released by the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

Psaki also specifically called Facebook on Thursday, saying the administration was reporting problematic posts to the social media giant.

“There are about 12 people who produce 65% of the anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms, all of which stay active on Facebook, although some are even blocked on other platforms that Facebook owns,” said Psaki.

Facebook said it removed more than a dozen pages, groups, and accounts from some of the people Psaki mentioned in the press conference. The social network said it also removed more than 18 million COVID-19 misinformation.

“We have partnered with government experts, health officials and researchers to take aggressive action against misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines to protect public health,” a Facebook spokesman said in a statement.

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