US President Joe Biden has been taking on vaccine misinformation over the last few days. Just last week, the president targeted Facebook, noting that the platform had allowed misinformation about the vaccine to spread all over the US.
Biden accused Facebook of quite literally “killing people”, something that the social media giant rejected very strongly. But the president is walking back on that harsh critic.
While the president now agrees that Facebook is not killing people, he still maintains that the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 through the platform has proved very harmful. Biden clarified that the people who are spreading this misinformation are indeed the ones to blame. Nonetheless, the president still noted that Facebook has a role to play in preventing this issue.
Speaking to the media, the president noted that although he did not mean to suggest that Facebook is killing people, his accusation should not be taken "personally" by the social media platform. Instead, Facebook should use the president's comments as fair criticism and a wake-up call to do more to prevent the spread of COVID-19 misinformation on its platform.
The White House has done a pretty good job in rolling out COVID-19 vaccines all over the country. But there are still a lot of Americans who are yet to get the shots. Much of these failings have been associated with growing vaccine misinformation targeting people in the US. Although there have been a lot of people responsible for this, social media platforms have by far been seen as the main culprits. The White House had done a broad analysis on the spread of misinformation about vaccines.
Its final report made it clear that Facebook needs to do more to prevent this. In fact, the White House had very concrete CrowdTangle data to support its claims. But Facebook maintains that it has done a lot to prevent COVID-19 misinformation on its platform. The company has, however, admitted that more still needs to be done.
Biden appealed to members of the public to stop encouraging or spreading misinformation about COVID-19. The president argued that vaccines work and people who get them are less likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who don’t. For this reason, the president believes that if the flow of misinformation could be stopped, then there would be a higher rate of vaccinations moving forward.
There is also a very scary trend in vaccine hesitancy that experts have been quick to point out. In states that voted for Trump in 2020, the level of vaccine uptake has remained relatively low compared to states that went for Biden.
There is a growing fear that some rhetoric by Republican lawmakers and right-wing media pundits may have massively affected the rate of vaccine uptake among republicans. Whether this will change in the future remains to be seen. But things will not be easy for the White House as it looks to deliver herd immunity over the coming months.