Yesterday, the White House escalated its fight against coronavirus vaccine misinformation. Us President Joe Biden himself criticized Facebook directly along with other platforms for allowing vaccine misinformation to spread. He even considered these big techs responsible for raising the count of ongoing deaths due to the pandemic.
The president said this in verbatim: “They’re killing people … the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people.”
The statements came after a coordinated White House campaign pressured Facebook and other platforms to act more aggressively to counter misinformation about vaccines. Last Thursday, a report from Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called for installing stricter penalties against accounts that share misinformation on social media. Murthy pointed out algorithmic recommendation engines like the Facebook News Feed as responsible for spreading misinformation.
Murthy said “They’ve designed product features, such as ‘Like’ buttons, that reward us for sharing emotionally charged content, not accurate content,” Murthy told reporters. “And their algorithms tend to give us more of what we click on, pulling us deeper and deeper into a well of misinformation.”
Facebook, on the other hand, believes it has done enough for vaccination drive so claims like these are baseless. A Facebook representative said “We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,” said a Facebook spokesperson. “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. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine.” He finished his comment with: “The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives, Period.”
Surprisingly, the big techs were defended by Republicans as they see this White House push as an unconstitutional effort by the government to bring about private-sector speech restrictions. Rep. Ken Buck (R-CO), an outspoken supporter of antitrust action against Facebook said “The White House is colluding with Facebook to censor Americans. This is an attack on the First Amendment.”