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The Biden administration approached Facebook and other social media companies about taking down posts that claimed coronavirus vaccines cause infertility.
"It shouldn't come as any surprise that we're in regular touch with social media platforms, just like we're in regular touch with all of you and your media outlets," White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Friday when asked to elaborate on comments she and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy made at Thursday's briefing on the matter. "We are regularly making sure social media platforms are aware of the latest narratives, dangerous to public health, that we and many other Americans are seeing across all of social and traditional media."
Psaki said the administration is working "to engage with them to better understand the enforcement of social media platform policies" before singling out "the false narrative that remains active out there about COVID-19 vaccines causing infertility."
"Again, this is troubling, but a persistent narrative that we and many have seen, and we want to know that the social media platforms are taking steps to address it," she continued. "That is inaccurate, false information. If you were a parent, you would look at that information, and that would naturally raise concerns, but it's inaccurate. And that is an example of the kind of information that we are flagging or raising."
The intelligence community believes Russia and China are amplifying the infertility messaging, Psaki said, claiming social media users typically are not able to tell when posts originate in other countries.
It's worth noting that Moderna just launched an efficacy trial for COVID vaccinations in pregnant women months after being granted an Emergency Use Authorization by the Food and Drug Administration.
Psaki first revealed Thursday that the administration is "flagging" coronavirus misinformation in accord with Murthy's just-announced surgeon general's warning on "health misinformation."
"I am urging all Americans to help slow the spread of health misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond," Murthy announced during the briefing. "Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people’s health, and undermine public health efforts. Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort."
The administration estimates that "12 people" account for 65% of the posts spreading vaccine misinformation on Facebook, and Psaki promised reporters on Friday the White House would supply data to back up that claim.
Psaki appeared to be referencing the "Disinformation Dozen" report compiled by the Center for Countering Digital Hate in May.
According to that list, the "Dozen" are Joseph Mercola, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Ty and Charlene Bollinger, Sherri Tenpenny, Rizza Islam, Rashid Buttar, Erin Elizabeth, Sayer Ji, Kelly Brogan, Christiane Northrup, Ben Tapper, and Kevin Jenkins.
Mercola responded to Psaki's declaration with a pair of Thursday tweets, calling the claim "nefarious, ominous and a complete violation of my freedom of speech."
"As the primary carriers of information, a few social media platforms have met utility criteria," he wrote. "When a government collaborates with business to censor citizens, it is illegal."
"Facebook, Google and Twitter have put policies into place to prevent the spread of vaccine misinformation; yet to date, all have failed to satisfactorily enforce those policies. All have been particularly ineffective at removing harmful and dangerous misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, though the scale of misinformation on Facebook, and thus the impact of their failure, is larger," center CEO Imran Ahmed wrote in the report. "Further, they have all failed to remove the accounts of prominent anti-vaxxers who have repeatedly violated their terms of service, as documented in later sections of this report."
The Biden administration and allied groups have actively stepped up efforts in recent weeks to combat vaccine misinformation. In addition to the administration's outreach to social media companies, the Democratic National Committee outlined efforts to the Washington Examiner to combat misinformation distributed via bulk SMS lists.
"We are steadfastly committed to keeping politics out of the effort to get every American vaccinated so that we can save lives and help our economy further recover," White House spokesman Kevin Munoz previously said of efforts to combat vaccine misinformation. "When we see deliberate efforts to spread misinformation, we view that as an impediment to the country's public health and will not shy away from calling that out."
You can watch Friday's entire briefing below.
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Original Author: Christian Datoc