US Facebook Extends Pushback on Biden Criticism of Social Media
The FTC's plan to break up Facebook will only worsen free speech concerns
Several small companies will likely do a worse job with content moderation than will one big one. But doesn't one big company also have pressures to allow only conforming, middle-of-the-road posts and discussions? No. If the one, big company is advertiser-supported and has many "channels," it has incentives to provide something for everyone. That is Facebook. They have incentives to provide opportunities for everyone, left, right and center, to participate on Facebook, regardless of Mark Zuckerberg's personal politics.
(Bloomberg) -- Facebook Inc. expanded on its pushback to President Joe Biden’s comment that social media networks enabled the spread of misinformation about vaccines, saying that it won’t take the blame for the administration missing its target to get 70% of Americans inoculated by July 4.
Biden said Friday that social media networks are “killing people” by allowing the spread of misinformation about coronavirus vaccines, saying that “the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated” after he was asked about his message for tech companies.
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After the social media giant said Friday the administration’s assertions were “not supported by facts,” Facebook’s Vice President of Integrity Guy Rosen posted a blog Saturday, using customer surveys and other actions the company has taken as defense. Among them include its data showing 85% of U.S. users have been or want to be vaccinated, and how its efforts have also pushed vaccine hesitancy down by 50%, he said.
“At a time when Covid-19 cases are rising in America, the Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies,” Rosen said. “Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed.”
Facebook has previously said it removed millions of posts from its core product and the photo sharing app Instagram for violating its policies, and stepped up enforcement against repeat offenders. The administration “clearly” did not believe that was a sufficient response to a “life or death issue,” the White House said Friday.
Opinion | The Secret to Defeating Covid Misinformation the White House Needs to Learn
Hammering Tucker Carlson and other lie spreaders won’t keep people from sharing their conspiracies. Direct appeals to the public might.Abandoning its previous, more passive strategy, the administration has wrapped its critics in a clinch and commenced counterpunching. White House press secretary Jen Psaki lectured Facebook this week for allowing false claims about Covid and vaccines to run wild on the service and announced that the White House it was “flagging problematic posts” for the company’s attention.
To detail Facebook’s actions, Rosen said more than 18 million “instances” of Covid-19 misinformation were removed since the start of the pandemic. The social network also labeled and cut the visibility of more than 167 million pieces of content debunked by its fact-checkers.
Video: Biden points out Facebook for Covid vaccine misinformation (NBC News)
Still, anti-vaccine activiststo social media platforms at the beginning of the pandemic, where they dripped anti-science skepticism into Facebook groups and Instagram stories and posts. Algorithms rewarded content that elicited strong emotional reactions, further amplifying the misinformation ranging from the toxicity of the vaccines to infertility risks.
Social media influencers, legitimized by their sizable follower counts, had a full year to sow doubt about Covid vaccines before Facebook took significant action. They’ve exploited public confusion and mixed messaging from government and health officials on everything from masks to vaccine side effects and safety. Facebook’s official stance was that it doesn’t ban posts unless they “cause imminent harm” -- a threshold the social network said vaccine misinformation only crossed months into a global inoculation campaign.
Feds step up pressure on social media over false COVID-19 claims
Social media companies are facing new pressure from the federal government to crack down on health misinformation as the Biden administration makes a push to encourage reluctant Americans to get COVID-19 vaccines. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory Thursday stating that misinformation is an "urgent threat" and called on the tech companies he accused of amplifying the misinformation to take action to fight the false, and often dangerous, claims. "Health misinformation didn't start with COVID-19. What's different now is the speed and scale at which health misinformation is spreading," Murthy said at a White House briefing. The U.S.
So far, only 55% of Americans have received one dose of the vaccine, and the pace is falling despite White House efforts to encourage more people to get the shot, while countries including the U.K. and Canada have accelerated inoculations efforts.
“We employed similar tactics in the U.K. and Canada, which have similar rates of Facebook usage to the U.S., and those countries have achieved more than 70% vaccination of eligible populations,” Rosen said. “This all suggests there’s more than Facebook to the outcome in the U.S.”
Meanwhile, Twitter Inc. took a different approach in its response.
“As the Covid-19 pandemic evolves around the world, we’ll continue to do our part to elevate authoritative health information,” it said in a tweet.
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