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US congressman: Amazon, Facebook profiting from COVID 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)
US Congressman Adam Schiff

US Congressman Adam Schiff has called on American companies Amazon and Facebook to address the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, accusing the tech giants of “directly profiting from the sensationalism of antivaccine misinformation.”

“We cannot allow the rapid and dangerous spread of anti-vaccine marketing and misinformation to keep Americans from the valid, factual information they need to protect themselves from this virus,” Schiff wrote to the companies in letters shared by his office Thursday.

Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration have pushed for American tech giants to accelerate efforts to curb misinformation about vaccines and the coronavirus.

In his letter to Amazon, Schiff said the American e-commerce giant’s algorithm and recommendation system are promoting “dangerous misinformation on vaccines.”

Earlier this week, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote a letter to Amazon. She denounced the company for “prominently” displaying books that spread false information about the virus and vaccines when users search for “COVID-19” and related queries.

Schiff’s letter to Facebook called on the social media platform on its enforcement of policies against vaccine misinformation.

“Despite this plan, recent investigations have shown that anti-vaccine audiences have grown to 37.8 million followers on Facebook and Instagram,” he wrote, citing a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

American social media platforms have been spreading content that suggests that COVID-19 vaccines are ineffective, and allow users to share claims that they carry microchips and that they hurt women's fertility, the official said.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki, and Surgeon General Vivek Murthy have said the spread of lies on social media about vaccines is making it harder to fight the pandemic and save lives.

A recent report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) showed a dozen anti-vaccine accounts are spreading nearly two-thirds of anti-vaccine misinformation online. Six of them are still active on YouTube.

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