President Joe Biden on Monday walked back his claim that Facebook and social media companies are “killing people” by failing to do enough to police Covid misinformation, CNN reports.
Biden last week accused Facebook of costing lives by failing to crack down on pandemic misinformation as the White House takes a more aggressive approach to pressuring social media companies on moderation as vaccination rates lag.
"They're killing people -- I mean they're really, look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated," Biden said on Friday. "And they're killing people."
The social media giant disputed Biden’s characterization.
"We will not be distracted by accusations which aren't supported by the facts,” the company said in a statement. “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."
"In private exchanges the Surgeon General has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about Covid-19,” a Facebook official told CNN. “They knew what they were doing. The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals."
Administration officials told the outlet that meetings with Facebook have been tense and accused the company of not “taking this very seriously” or “hiding something.”
Biden walks back comment:
Biden walked back his comment on Monday.
"Facebook isn't killing people -- these 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It's killing people. It's bad information," Biden said, referring to an analysis showing that just 12 people are responsible for the majority of Covid misinformation on social media.
"My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally, that somehow I'm saying Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation, the outrageous misinformation about the vaccine. That's what I meant," Biden said.
"I'm not trying to hold people accountable, I'm trying to make people look at themselves, look in the mirror,” he added. “Think about that misinformation going to your son, your daughter, your relative, someone you love. That's what I'm asking."
The White House has continued to be in touch with Facebook over the last several days as tensions have “escalated,” according to CNN.
Administration officials say the company has pushed back on the White House’s pressure campaign but the White House believes Facebook’s current actions “aren’t enough” given the amount of misinformation on the social network.