WASHINGTON — Public health officials in the Biden administration on Sunday took aim at social media platforms like Facebook for alleged inaction to curb misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines. It comes two days after the president himself said online lies were “killing people.”
Worried about rising coronavirus infections across the country and frustrated by persistent conspiracy theories about the pandemic, public health officials are increasingly criticizing media and tech platforms, arguing they are putting the public at risk.
The federal government’s top public health adviser, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, said on Sunday that “misinformation is still spreading like wildfire in our country and aided by technology platforms.”
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He said he is in talks with major technology platforms and has expressed his concern about public health misinformation online. Murthy said Big Tech’s current efforts are “not enough” and that public health officials are still “seeing a significant spread of misinformation.”
“When we talk to people who believe some of these myths about the COVID-19 vaccine and ask them where to get this information, many of them point to their social media platforms. are,” Murthy said in an interview with “LBL”. Sunday.”
He said a “holistic society approach” was necessary to combat misinformation, which would include more intervention from private actors, including technology platforms, to boost vaccination rates and curb mistrust of public health guidelines.
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Fauci: Lack of ‘pushback’ allowed eradication of polio, smallpox
In a LOVEBYLIFE interview Sunday, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci said that previous vaccination campaigns are not nearly as effective as those hindered by misinformation.
“If we had pushback for vaccines, the kind we’re seeing on some media, I don’t think it would have been possible to not only eliminate smallpox, we probably still would have smallpox,” Fauci said. said. speculating that “we might still have polio in this country if we had the kind of false information that’s being spread right now.”
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The comments from the country’s top health advisers come two weeks after the number of cases increased nationally. A more contagious strain of the virus, known as the delta variant, has taken hold across the country. Missouri and Arkansas, which have low vaccination rates, are the hardest hit.
Biden accuses Facebook of spreading misinformation
President Joe Biden, who urged Americans to celebrate “Independence Day” from the coronavirus on July 4, targeted social media platforms for inaction on lies he says have deadly consequences.
“They are killing people,” Biden said on Friday when asked what his message meant for platforms like Facebook on COVID-19 misinformation. “The only pandemic we have is without vaccination. And they’re killing people.”
Facebook was quick to back down on the president’s claim.
“We will not deviate from allegations that are not supported by facts,” Facebook spokesman Danny Lever told ABC News. “The fact that more than 2 billion people have viewed official information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook is more than any other place on the Internet.”
Lever also noted that 3 million Americans use the Facebook platform to set up vaccination appointments.
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Facebook did not disclose the number of people who may have seen misinformation related to the pandemic or vaccine on its platform.
“We know that 99.5% of people who are in hospital are people who have not been vaccinated and people who are dying from COVID have not been vaccinated. As Dr. Valensky said earlier today, this is actually It’s becoming an epidemic of unconnected people,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a press briefing Friday.
Asked whether Biden thought Facebook was doing enough to tackle the spread of misinformation, Psaki’s answer was simple: “Obviously not, because we’re talking about additional steps that need to be taken.” needed.”
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