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Biden claims Facebook ‘is killing people’ with misinformation about vaccines

The social media giant has pushed back hard against the White House attack

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Photo (c) Pornpak_Khunatorn - Getty Images
The Biden administration, frustrated by a surge in coronavirus (COVID-19) cases among Americans who refuse to be vaccinated, is blaming social media platforms.

Departing the White House late Friday, Biden responded to a reporter’s question about misinformation on social media. The president didn’t hold back.

"They’re killing people," Biden said. Then, to underscore the charge, he repeated it.

"The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that’s — they’re killing people," he said.

Facebook pushes back

Facebook responded immediately, saying the president’s accusation is not supported by the facts. In a statement, the company said it has contributed to the success of the vaccination program.

"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,” the statement 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.”

A spokesperson for Facebook also said the company "removed more than 18 million pieces of COVID misinformation, removed accounts that repeatedly break these rules, and connected more than 2 billion people to reliable information about COVID-19 and COVID vaccines across our apps."

Then, on Saturday, Facebook pushed back even harder. In a blog post, company vice president Guy Rosen threw out some numbers suggesting that Facebook users aren’t being misled.

"The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the US have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19," Rosen wrote. "President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed."

Under attack

Facebook and other large technology companies have increasingly found themselves in the government’s crosshairs. Democrats generally consider companies like Facebook and Google too large and too dominant. Republicans tend to be suspicious of Big Tech’s politics, claiming that these platforms tend to censor conservative viewpoints.

Facebook, Google, and Amazon already face antitrust lawsuits by federal and state governments. Late last month, a federal judge dismissed the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) antitrust suit against Facebook. 

The judge ruled that prosecutors had failed to explain what social networking is or how they determined that Facebook controls more than 60% of the market. He also said the FTC had failed to show how Facebook’s business model harms the public, noting that the public pays nothing to use Facebook.

A week later, 37 states, led by both Republicans and Democrats, filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google parent company Alphabet. The regulators claimed that the Google Play Store constitutes “illegal and anticompetitive conduct” that gives it monopoly power in mobile app distribution.

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