President Joe Biden on Monday walked back his declaration that Facebook is “killing people” by not acting forcefully enough to combat vaccine-related misinformation.
“I’m trying to get people to look in the mirror, think about that misinformation going to your son, your daughter, your relative, someone you love. That’s what I’m asking,” Biden said following a speech touting the economic recovery and making his case for the infrastructure proposals being negotiated in Congress.
Biden said his Friday comments were not meant to be taken literally and instead were a challenge to the social media company to do more to prevent its platform from being used to spread inaccurate information.
“Facebook isn’t killing people,” he said. “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.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki likewise sought to deescalate the tension with Facebook during the daily press briefing Monday afternoon.
“We are not in a war or a battle with Facebook,” Psaki said. “We are in a war with the virus.”
Facebook took issue with the Biden administration’s assertions, arguing it has gone above and beyond to take down misinformation and steer users toward authoritative sources and connect them to vaccine appointments.
“The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period,” spokesperson Dani Lever said Friday.
The Biden administration has stepped up its messaging around vaccinations and decided to more aggressively combat what it sees as activity harming the effort. The pace of vaccinations has slowed considerably despite the risk posed by the Delta variant, and parts of the country remain hostile to getting vaccinated. Nearly all of those being hospitalized or dying because of Covid-19 in the United States are those who are unvaccinated.
“These tragedies are avoidable,” Biden said during his speech. “The data could not be clearer: If you’re fully vaccinated and you have a high degree of protection against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. If you’re unvaccinated you’re not protected.”
However unvaccinated people are less likely to be concerned about the Delta variant than those who have opted to get vaccinated, according to a CBS News poll released Sunday.