As COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated populations surge nationwide, the White House pointed its finger at social media companies allowing misinformation about vaccines to spread.
“They’re killing people,” President Joe Biden said when asked by NBC News what his message is to platforms such as Facebook. “The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people.”
In a statement, Facebook said the company won't be "distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts."
"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," spokesperson Kevin McAlister told USA TODAY. "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.”
COVID-19 misinformation has permeated social media since the pandemic’s first weeks.
A study published this year in the science journal Nature found that exposure to misinformation led to a 6.4% decline in Americans' intent to "definitely" accept a vaccine. According to an analysis by The Associated Press, almost all COVID-19 deaths in the USA are among unvaccinated people.
"Health misinformation is an urgent threat to public health,” U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Thursday in his first advisory of the Biden administration. “It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, and undermine public health efforts, including our ongoing work to end the COVID-19 pandemic. As Surgeon General, my job is to help people stay safe and healthy, and without limiting the spread of health misinformation, American lives are at risk.”
Murthy said tech and social media companies “must do more to address the spread” of falsehoods on their platforms.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki took similar aim at social media platforms at her news briefings Thursday and Friday.
“Our biggest concern, and frankly I think it should be your biggest concern, is the number of people who are dying around the country because they are getting misinformation that is leading them to not take a vaccine,” Psaki said Friday. “Young people, old people, kids, children … a lot of them are being impacted by misinformation.”
A USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins University data determined all 50 states reported more COVID-19 cases in the most recent seven-day period than in the week before – a 70% spike. A little less than half of the U.S. population, 48.4%, is fully vaccinated, and a little more than half, 55.9%, has had at least one shot, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Biden aimed to have 70% of American adults at least half-vaccinated by the 4th of July, but the country did not meet his administration's goal.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden: Social media ‘killing people’ by allowing misinformation