President Joe Biden pushed back some of his criticism of Facebook, saying Monday that he intended to accuse a dozen users, but not the social media platform itself, of spreading deadly lies about Covid vaccines.
“Facebook is not killing people,” Biden said.
Biden added that he hopes Facebook will do more to combat “the outrageous misinformation” about the spread of coronavirus vaccines on its platform “instead of taking it personally that I’m somehow saying Facebook is killing people.”
Last week, Biden seemed to say exactly that: When asked outside the White House what his message was to platforms like Facebook regarding Covid disinformation, Biden said, “They’re killing people.”
“I mean really, look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that is, they are killing people,” Biden said Friday.
Facebook had reacted defensively, saying through a spokesperson that it “will not be distracted by accusations that are not supported by the facts.”
“The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives,” the spokesperson added.
The dispute came just a day after White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced that the Biden administration had begun “flagging problematic Facebook posts that spread disinformation” and that the government had proposed changes to the main social media platforms.
On the same day, US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy stated that Covid misinformation poses an urgent threat to public health. Specifically, he mentioned the characteristics and algorithms of social media company products that can drag people “increasingly into a pit of misinformation.”
At the White House on Monday, Biden took the opportunity to clarify his comments when asked by reporters about the controversy.
“I’m glad you asked me that question,” Biden said after delivering a state of the economy speech.
Biden said that just before making the accusation that Facebook is “killing people,” he had read a report that 60% of misinformation about Covid vaccines came from just a dozen social media accounts.
“Facebook is not killing people, these 12 people are giving wrong information. Anyone who hears it will be harmed. It is killing people. It’s bad information, ”Biden said.
“My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally that I’m somehow saying that Facebook is killing people, will do something about the misinformation, the outrageous misinformation about the vaccine.”
“That’s what I meant,” said the president.
Facebook did not immediately respond to CNBC’s request for comment on Biden’s most recent comments.
– CNBC’s Christina Wilkie contributed to this report.