It's 'killing people': Biden sounds off on COVID-19 misinformation online

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President Joe Biden called out social media platforms including Facebook for allowing COVID-19 vaccine misinformation to spread on its services, which he claims has resulted in the deaths of Americans, CNBC reported July 16. 

When asked what his message to platforms like Facebook regarding COVID-19 disinformation was, President Biden said: "I mean they really, look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that's — they’re killing people," he said during a press conference. 

President Biden walked back some of his criticism of Facebook on July 19, saying he meant to call out a dozen users, not the Facebook platform itself, for spreading misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, according to CNBC.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki highlighted the spread of a false narrative on Facebook that claimed the COVID-19 vaccines cause infertility. "This is troubling but a persistent narrative that we and many have seen, and we want to know that the social media platforms are taking steps to address it," she said. "That is inaccurate, false information." 

Facebook refuted President Biden and Ms. Psaki's comments, stating that the company "will not 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," a Facebook spokesperson said. "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." 

Nahid Bhadelia, MD, founding director of the Center for Emerging Infectious Diseases at Boston University, told CNBC that medically, she agrees with President Biden's comments that platforms like Facebook are killing people by letting COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on their services. 

Dr. Bhadelia cited findings from a Kaiser Family Fund survey that found 54 percent of Americans either believe in or cannot discern whether a common COVID-19 vaccine myth is true or false, according to the report. 

"I think social media is playing a big role in amplifying misinformation, which is leading to people not taking the vaccine, which is killing them," Dr. Bhadelia said. "It's the honest truth. Covid, right now, is a vaccine-preventable disease."

 

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