Facebook has hit back at President Biden after he accused the company of ‘killing people’ by allowing misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine to circulate on its platform.
On Friday, a Facebook official scathingly told NBC: ‘In private exchanges the Surgeon General [Vivek Murthy] has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about COVID-19… The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals.’
The Biden Administration hoped to have 70 percent of American adults partially vaccinated against COVID by Independence Day – a goal they missed by three percent.
The Commander-in-Chief has voiced his frustration about vaccine misinformation proliferating on social media, saying it is stopping millions of Americans from getting the jab.
Earlier this week, the White House confirmed it had stepped up COVID-19 misinformation tracking as it tried to tackle slowing rates of vaccination.
Press Secretary Jen Psaki explicitly singled out Facebook saying that influential anti-vaxxers ‘remain active’ on the site ‘despite some even being banned on other platforms’.
‘You shouldn’t be banned from one platform and not others for providing misinformation,’ she stated on Thursday.
The following day, President Biden was asked he had a message for Facebook, to which he responded: ‘They’re killing people. I mean it really. Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people.’
Zuckerberg V Biden: Facebook has hit back at President Biden after he accused the company of ‘killing people’ by allowing misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine to circulate on its platform
Facebook is blasting back against President Biden after he accused the company of ‘killing people’ by allowing misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine to circulate on its platform
But Facebook is not letting Biden control the narrative, pushing back in a series of statements shared with NBC.
‘We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts,’ a spokesperson declared.
‘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. 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.’
A Facebook official then added the scathing claim that Biden was simply looking for scapegoats to explain why he failed to meet his goal to have 70 percent of the country vaccinated.
President Biden claimed the company was ‘killing people’ because it was not properly monitoring or removing misleading posts about the COVID-19 shots
The war of words marks a new development in the relationship between Facebook and the Biden Administration.
The social media company was last year accused of siding with Biden in the run-up to the presidential election after it ‘reduced the distribution’ of a damning New York Post article about Biden’s son, Hunter Biden.
The bombshell story featured emails uncovered on Hunter’s laptop which pertained to his dealings with the Ukrainian gas company Burisma. The New York Post accused Facebook of censoring the article, but the social media giant claimed it may have been dubiously sourced and needed further fact-checking before it could be widely shared.
For conservatives, the action amplified their belief that Facebook and other Big Tech companies had a strong liberal bias.
But, some liberals have conversely accused Facebook of failing to adequately fact-check conservatives and of allowing Russian disinformation to circulate unabated on the platform.
Back in 2019, Facebook CEO dined with Mark Zuckerberg, however the relationship between the pair subsequently soured.
Trump was been suspended from Facebook following the January 6 riots, and his ban still remains in effect.
Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, was asked repeatedly about how the White House could justify flagging social media posts about COVID-19 to Facebook
Fox News’ Peter Doocy accused the administration of spying on people’s Facebook profiles, one of series of tough questions in a noisy briefing room on Friday
Earlier this week, Jen Psaki said Facebook should currently be doing more to combat misinformation about the vaccine.
A surge in cases, caused by the Indian ‘Delta’ strain of COVID-19, are concentrated among people who have not been vaccinated, triggering a fresh push to ensure that accurate information is available.
‘Our point is that there is information that is leading to people not taking the vaccine and people are dying as a result. We have a responsibility as a public health matter to raise that issue,’ said Psaki on Thursday.
It followed the announcement a day earlier that the Biden administration had been flagging problematic posts – a move some said was a violation of both privacy and freedom of speech rights.
‘We are in regular touch with the social media platforms and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff and also members of our COVID-19 team — given as [Surgeon General Vivek] Murthy conveyed this is a big issue, of misinformation, specifically on the pandemic,’ Psaki said on Thursday.
Under fire: Zuckerberg has not personally commented on the harsh criticism the Biden Administration has directed at Facebook, however a company spokesperson has blasted back
The admission triggered Republican condemnation.
Sen. Josh Hawley accused the White House of imposing a COVID speech code.
‘I think it’s really scary to have the federal government of the United States, the White House, compiling lists of people, organizations, whatever, and then going to a private company that, by the way, is a monopoly, Facebook, and saying, ‘You need to censor. You need to do something about this.” he told Fox News.
Journalist Glenn Greenwald wrote a long Twitter thread condemning the practice.
‘If you don’t find it deeply disturbing that the White House is ‘flagging’ internet content that they deem ‘problematic’ to their Facebook allies for removal, then you are definitionally [sic] an authoritarian.’
Dan Gainor, of Media Research Center, also ripped into Psaki and the White House by tweeting ‘being anti-vaccine is part of free speech. @PressSec is against freedom.’
John Cooper tweeted an emoji of two red light sirens and said, ‘Jen Psaki says the Biden administration is actively flagging what they deem “disinformation” about the pandemic to Facebook for censoring. What could go wrong??’
Many people have pointed out that the Wuhan lab leak was once considered a laughable, looney conspiracy theory until the last couple months when more evidence came to light that supported this COVID-19 origin theory.
However Psaki has insisted that the Administration is not forcing Facebook to take any posts down.
‘We don’t take anything down,’ she said. ‘We don’t block anything.
‘Facebook, and any private sector company, makes decisions about what information should be on their platform.’
‘Obviously there are steps they have taken. They’re a private sector company,’ she said.
‘There are additional steps they can take. It’s clear that there are more that can be taken.’
However, Psaki’s pointed comments about the social media giant gave the American public insight into reported tensions between Facebook and the White House.
A source familiar with the conversations between the Biden administration and Facebook representatives told CNN that White House officials believe Facebook isn’t ‘taking this very seriously, or they are hiding something.
Meanwhile, on Monday, Politico reported that Biden-allied groups – including the Democratic National Committee – planned to fact-check more aggressively.
Part of the plan is working with SMS carriers to dispel misinformation about vaccines sent in text messages or social media messages.
‘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,’ White House spokesperson Kevin Munoz told Politico.
The impact of unvaccinated populations were spelled during the White House COVID-19 briefing on Friday, which revealed the surge in cases.
‘We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination rates because unvaccinated people are at risk,’ said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who called it a ‘pandemic of the unvaccinated.’
The result, she added, was likely to be deaths that could have been prevented.
‘The good news is that if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected against COVID hospitalization and death and are even protected against the known variants, including the Delta variant circulating in this country,’ she said.
‘If you are not vaccinated, you remain at risk.’
HOW LIKELY ARE YOU TO GET COVID-19 AFTER BEING FULLY VACCINATED?
So-called ‘breakthrough’ COVID-19 cases occur when people contract the disease 14 days or more after receiving their second dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine or the Johnson & Johnson one-shot jab.
Clinical trials have shown that Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine is 95% effective in preventing symptomatic disease and the Moderna vaccine is 94.5% effective.
Meanwhile, real-world data showed the Pfizer jab is 91% effective against all disease for at least six months and the Moderna vaccine is 90% effective.
This means that fully vaccinated people are between 90% and 95% less likely to develop COVID-19 than unvaccinated people.
In addition, Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine trials showed 72% efficacy in the U.S., meaning those who got the one-shot jab are 72% less likely to contract the disease.
When comparing fully vaccinated people who did and did not get sick, the risk is even lower.
The most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data show that 10,262 of at least 133 million Americans who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 later contracted the disease.
This translates to 0.00716% of people who have completed their vaccine series have gone on to test positive.
It also represents the true odds of getting COVID-19 after full vaccination: less than 0.01%.
What’s more, fully vaccinated people who test positive have mild illnesses, and are very unlikely to be hospitalized or die.
The CDC states that 99.5% of all deaths occur in unvaccinated people.
That means, if the figure applies to the 3,165 Americans who’ve died in July 2021 so far – as of July 13 – about 3,150 deaths would be among unvaccinated people and 15 deaths among fully vaccinated people.