Facebook refutes Biden’s claim it’s ‘killing people’ with vaccine misinformation

Facebook on Saturday refuted comments by the president Joe Biden Which social media platforms are “killing people” by allowing misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine about their services and arguing that vaccine adoption has risen among its users in the US

In a blog post, Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, pointed to data suggesting vaccine hesitancy among US users has decreased by 50%, with 85% of users saying they have been or would like to be vaccinated against Covid-19 .

“These and other facts tell a very different story from the one promoted by the government in recent days,” Rosen wrote.

Rosen also pointed to the Biden administration’s narrowly missed goal of vaccinating 70% of Americans by July 4, arguing that Facebook “isn’t the reason this goal was missed.”

Facebook’s response comes after the president was asked on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday what his message was to companies like Facebook regarding misinformation about Covid. In response to the question, Biden replied, “They’re killing people.”

“I mean, they’re real, look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that’s — they’re killing people,” the president said, echoing previous comments from White House press secretary Jen. psaki.

Psaki, on a Newsletter last week, said the Biden administration flagged problematic posts for Facebook spreading misinformation, including false information that the Covid-19 vaccine is causing infertility.

The press secretary urged Facebook and other social media companies to address misinformation, including publicly sharing data about the impact of misinformation on their services, promoting high-quality information resources in their feed algorithm, and taking faster action against harmful messages.

Deaths from Covid-19 are on the rise again in the US as the delta variant affects largely unvaccinated parts of the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US reported an average of 530,000 vaccinations per day in the past week.

Read the full Facebook blog post here:

At a time when COVID-19 cases are on the rise in America, the Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies. While social media plays an important role in society, it is clear that we need a societal approach to end this pandemic. And facts — not accusations — should help inform that effort. The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users has increased in the US. These and other facts tell a very different story from the one the government has been promoting in recent days.

Since April 2020, we’ve partnered with Carnegie Mellon University and University of Maryland on a global survey to gather insights on COVID-19 symptoms, testing, vaccination coverage, and more. This is the largest survey of its kind, with a total of more than 70 million responses and more than 170,000 responses per day in more than 200 countries and territories. For people in the US on Facebook, vaccine hesitancy has decreased by 50%; and they are accepting more vaccines every day.

Since January, Facebook user acceptance of vaccines in the US has increased by 10-15 percentage points (70% → 80-85%) and racial and ethnic disparities in acceptance have decreased significantly (some of the populations with the lowest acceptance in January the highest increases since). The results of this research are: public and we have shared them — along with other records requested by the administration — with the White House, the CDC, and other key partners in the federal government.

The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the US have been vaccinated or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason why this target was missed.

In fact, increased vaccine adoption has been observed on and off Facebook, and many leaders in the US are working to make that happen. We used similar tactics in the UK and Canada, which have similar percentages of Facebook usage to the US, and those countries have achieved over 70% vaccination of eligible populations. All this suggests that the outcome in the US is more than just Facebook.

Now, vaccination efforts are rightly focused on increasing access and availability for those more difficult to reach. That’s why we recently expanded our pop-up vaccine clinics in low-income and disadvantaged communities. To help promote reliable vaccine information to communities that have less access to vaccines, we use the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index. This is a publicly available dataset that crisis and health responders often use to identify communities most likely to need support, as areas of higher vulnerability have experienced lower COVID-19 vaccination rate.

We have also contributed in other areas:

  • Since the start of the pandemic, more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook. This includes more than 3.3 million Americans who use our vaccine finder tool to find out where to get a COVID-19 vaccine and make an appointment to do so.
  • More than 50% of people in the US on Facebook have already seen someone use the COVID-19 vaccine profile frames, which we developed in conjunction with the US Department of Health and Human Services and the CDC. From what we’ve seen, it heightens their perception that vaccines are safe when people see a friend tell them they’ve been vaccinated.
  • We continue to encourage everyone to use these tools to show their friends that they have been vaccinated. For those who hesitate, hearing from a friend who has been vaccinated is undoubtedly more impactful than hearing from a major corporation or the federal government.

And when we see misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, we take action.

  • Since the start of the pandemic, we have cleared more than 18 million cases of misinformation about COVID-19.
  • We’ve also tagged and reduced the visibility of more than 167 million pieces of COVID-19 content debunked by our network of fact-checking partners so that fewer people see it and – when they do – they have full context.

In fact, we have already taken action on all eight the Surgeon General’s recommendations about what tech companies can do to help. And we will continue to work with health experts to update the list of false claims we are removing from our platform. We publish these rules for everyone to read and research, and we update them regularly as we see new trends emerge.

The Biden administration is calling for a societal approach to this challenge. We agree. As a company, we have deployed unprecedented resources in the fight against the pandemic, pointing people to reliable information and helping them find and plan for vaccinations. And we will continue to do so.

Salvador Rodriguez of CNBC contributed to this report.

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