President Joe Biden said on Friday that technology platforms like Facebook are “killing people” by allowing misinformation about a COVID-19 vaccine to spread online. “They’re killing people,” Biden said on the White House lawn. “The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.”
A Facebook spokesperson denied Biden’s allegations, saying the company had referred more than 2 billion people to reliable information about COVID-19 and vaccines. Facebook has an online information center about COVID-19 as part of its efforts to direct people to official sources. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used Facebook’s vaccine search tool, he said.
“We will not be bothered by allegations that are not supported by facts,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “The facts show that Facebook helps save lives. Period.”
The comments come as tensions rise between Washington and Facebook as politicians and regulators seek to wrest power from the world’s biggest tech company.
Biden criticized Facebook before winning the US presidency, telling the New York Times in January 2020 that he was not a “fan” of Facebook or CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
Biden’s latest remarks come a day after US surgeon General Vivek Murty issued a council saying health misinformation was an “urgent threat” to the public amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Although social networks such as Facebook have stated that they have stepped up their efforts to limit the spread of health misinformation, the spread of this type of content remains a problem.
A statement released Thursday said the misinformation hampering the US response to the pandemic and preventing Americans from getting vaccinated. He called on social media companies as well as individuals to help fight disinformation in healthcare.
“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,” Murty said in a statement. “From tech and social media companies that must do more to tackle the spread of their platforms, to all of us recognizing misinformation and avoiding addressing this challenge, a broader community approach needed, but a very long approach – the health of our nation. “
Facebook said it had removed more than a dozen pages, groups and accounts of some of the people Psaki named at the press conference.
The social network also said it had removed more than 18 million misinformation about COVID-19.
“We have partnered with government experts, health officials and researchers to take aggressive action against disinformation about COVID-19 and public health vaccines,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement.