Facebook and the Biden administration engaged in an increasingly rancorous back and forth over the weekend after the administration denounced the social media giant for spreading misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines.
On Sunday, the surgeon general, Vivek Murthy, reiterated warnings that false stories about the vaccines had become a dangerous health hazard.
“These platforms have to recognize they’ve played a major role in the increase in speed and scale with which misinformation is spreading,” Murthy said Sunday on CNN.
In a blog post Saturday, Facebook called for the administration to stop “finger-pointing” and laid out what it had done to encourage users to get vaccinated. The social network also detailed how it had clamped down on lies about the vaccines, which officials have said led people to refuse to be vaccinated.
“The Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies,” Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, said in the post. “The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the U.S. has increased.”
Rosen added that the company’s data showed that 85% of its U.S. users had been or wanted to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. While President Joe Biden had set a goal of getting 70% of Americans vaccinated by July 4, which the White House fell short of, “Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed,” Rosen said.
Facebook’s response followed a forceful condemnation of the company by Biden. When asked Friday about the role of social media in influencing vaccinations, Biden declared in unusually strong language that the platforms were “killing people.”
Other White House officials have also been vocal about how social media has amplified vaccine lies. On Thursday, Murthy accused social media companies of not having done enough to stop the spread of dangerous health misinformation. On Friday, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, also called out misinformation “that is leading to people not taking the vaccine.”
The White House declined to comment on Facebook’s blog post Saturday.
In recent months, Facebook has taken steps against anti-vaccination ads and misstatements about the vaccines. But online misinformation about the vaccines has not been eradicated.
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