President Joe Biden said Friday social media platforms like Facebook are “killing people” with misinformation surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic as the White House ramps up its rhetoric around false information on social media regarding the pandemic.
“They’re killing people – I mean they’re really, look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” Biden told reporters as he left the White House for Camp David. “And they’re killing people.”
US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy warned Thursday health misinformation is “a serious threat to public health,” and the administration directly called out social media giant Facebook for not doing enough to stop the spread of false information on its platform. Meetings between the Biden administration and Facebook in recent weeks have been “tense,” a source familiar with the conversations told CNN.
The source said Biden officials who had taken concerns about vaccine misinformation to Facebook had concluded that the company was either not “taking this very seriously, or they are hiding something,” due to what they view as Facebook’s unwillingness to tackle vaccine misinformation.
In response, a Facebook spokesperson told CNN Friday, “We 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.”
On Saturday, Facebook pushed back on the Biden administration’s charge that the company wasn’t doing enough to stop vaccine misinformation and that it and other social media companies are “killing people.”
“President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed,” Guy Rose, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, wrote in a post on the company’s website.
Earlier Saturday, a Facebook official, speaking anonymously to discuss conversations the company has had with the Biden administration, told CNN, “In private exchanges the Surgeon General has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about Covid-19. They knew what they were doing. The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki blasted social media platforms on Friday for taking insufficient action on misinformation.
“Why don’t we all participate in a process that will help provide accurate information out there?” Psaki said.
The White House doesn’t find Facebook’s response and information sharing surrounding vaccine misinformation sufficient, Psaki said.
On Thursday, Psaki cited four actions the administration wants social media platforms to take: measure and publicly share the impact of misinformation on their platform, implement a more robust enforcement strategy, take faster action against harmful posts and promote quality information in their feed algorithm.
Asked by CNN’s Phil Mattingly on Friday to elaborate on the requests and whether Facebook has been amenable to the requests, Psaki explained that the White House is in regular touch with social media platforms.
“We are regularly making sure social media platforms are aware of the latest narratives dangerous to public health that we and many other Americans are seeing across all of social and traditional media,” she said.
This story has been updated with additional comments from Facebook on Saturday.
CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, Brian Fung and Andy Rose contributed to this report.