Facebook tells Biden: ‘Facebook is not the reason’ that vaccination target was missed
WASHINGTON – Facebook on Saturday pushed back on administration Biden’s denunciation of the social media giant for spreading misinformation about Covid-19 vaccines, exacerbating tensions between the Silicon Valley company and the White House.
In a blog post, Facebook called on the administration to stop “pointing fingers” and explained what it had done to encourage users to get vaccinated. The social network also detailed how it cracked down on lies about vaccines, which officials say led people to refuse to be vaccinated.
“The Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of US social media companies,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, said in the post. “The point is, the acceptance of vaccines among Facebook users in the United States has increased.”
Mr Rosen added that the company’s data showed that 85% of its users in the United States had been or wanted to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. While President Biden set a goal of having 70% of Americans immunized by July 4, which the White House failed to achieve, “Facebook is not the reason that goal was missed, ”Mr. Rosen said.
Facebook’s response follows a strong condemnation of the company by Mr. Biden. Asked on Friday about the role of social media in influencing vaccinations, Mr Biden said in unusually loud language that platforms are “killing people.”
“Listen,” he added, “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that – and they’re killing people. “
Other White House officials have also spoken increasingly about how social media has amplified lies about vaccines.
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy on Thursday accused social media companies of not doing enough to stop the spread of dangerous false health information, calling it a national health crisis that had fostered reluctance to vaccinate among Americans. On Friday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, also denounced the misinformation “which leads people not to take the vaccine, and people die of it”. She said the White House has a responsibility to raise the issue.
The White House declined to comment on the Facebook blog post on Saturday.
Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have long struggled with their role as speech platforms while protecting their users from disinformation campaigns, like Russian efforts to influence presidential elections or false claims about the pandemic.
In recent months, Facebook has taken action against anti-vaccination ads and vaccine misrepresentation. In October, he said he would no longer allow anti-vaccination ads on his platform. In February, the company went further and said it would remove posts with false vaccine claims, including claims that vaccines cause autism or that it is safer for people to contract. the coronavirus than to receive the vaccines.
But online misinformation about vaccines has not been stamped out. Lies have spread that vaccines can alter DNA or that vaccines don’t work.
On Saturday, Mr Rosen said in a blog post that among US Facebook users, vaccine reluctance has declined by 50% since April and vaccine acceptance has increased by 10 to 15 percentage points, or from 70% to more than 80%.
“While social media plays an important role in society, it is clear that we need a holistic societal approach to end this pandemic,” Mr. Rosen said. “And the facts – not the allegations – should help inform this effort. “
The White House’s frustration with Facebook has grown over the months, people familiar with the matter said. While the Biden administration asked Facebook to share information about the spread of disinformation on the social network, the company refused to cooperate, people said.
White House chief digital officer Robert Flaherty said in a tweet on Friday: “I guess I have a simple question left: How many people have seen misinformation about the Covid vaccine on Facebook?