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Facebook fires back after Biden said US social media platform ‘killing people’ with vaccine misinformation

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Facebook logo is reflected in a drop on a syringe needle in this illustration photo taken on March 16, 2021. (Via Reuters)

Facebook has reacted after President Joe Biden said the US social media platform is "killing people" with misinformation about the coronavirus vaccine, and blamed Facebook for subverting the vaccine rollout.

"The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the US have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19," Facebook said in a corporate blog post by Guy Rosen, the company's vice president of Integrity.

Rosen accused Biden of making Facebook a scapegoat for his administration’s failure to reach its goal of having 70% Americans vaccinated by July 4.

"President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed."

The Facebook VP claimed that the company has deployed “unprecedented resources" in its fight against the pandemic, such as “pointing people to reliable information” and facilitating vaccine appointments.

Biden said Friday when asked about misinformation and what his message was to social media platforms such as Facebook, "They're killing people. ... Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people." 

A White House spokesperson also said many "problematic posts" on Facebook were made by "12 people," who are reportedly accountable for "65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms."

Researchers and lawmakers have long accused Facebook of failing to police harmful content on its platforms after COVID-19 misinformation spread during the pandemic on American social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and  YouTube.

US surgeon General Vivek Murthy described health misinformation as an “urgent threat”.

Murthy, last week, blamed "health misinformation" on social media for vaccine hesitancy, and called for a whole-of-society effort to combat the misinformation.

“Modern technology companies have enabled misinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to their users,” Murthy noted, adding that, “They’ve allowed people who intentionally spread misinformation — what we call ‘disinformation’ — to have extraordinary reach.”

The Delta variant of the coronavirus, which is now the dominant strain worldwide, has fast spread among unvaccinated Americans, with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention saying 99 percent of the cases occur in those not vaccinated.

American cases of COVID-19 are up 70% over the previous week and deaths are up 26% as the outbreaks occurred in parts of the country with low vaccination rates.

More than 34,050,000 people in the United States have been infected with COVID-19 and over 613,000 Americans died of the virus as of July 19.

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