He spoke to reporters minutes after the issue dominated a White House press briefing, with reporters asking whether the administration was spying on American citizens by flagging misleading, dangerous information.
As he left for a weekend at Camp David, Biden was asked if he had a message for social media companies like Facebook.
‘They’re killing people. I mean it really,’ he said.
‘Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.
‘And they’re killing people.’
President Biden told reporters social media companies were killing people with the spread of misinformation. ‘Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,’ he said as he left the White House on Friday afternoon for a weekend at Camp David
Biden and the White House defended its actions after it emerged that officials were flagging ‘problematic’ messages on Facebook. Critics said they were breaching the First Amendment
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
A day earlier the White House confirmed it had stepped up COVID-19 misinformation tracking as it tried to tackle slowing rates of vaccination across the nation, flagging misleading posts to Facebook for removal.
On Friday, White House press Jen Psaki was quizzed repeatedly about the practice.
Fox News’ Peter Doocy asked: ‘For how long has the administration been spying on people’s Facebook profiles looking for vaccine misinformation?’
‘That was quite a loaded and inaccurate question,’ responded Psaki, insisting that the White House had similar conversations with news companies to keep the record straight.
The row erupted as officials react to a rise in COVID-19- cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the U.S.
The most recent seven-day average of new cases was 26,300, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a jump of almost 70 percent.
The cases 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.
And she insisted the social media platforms were free to do as they pleased with the information supplied by the administration.
‘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.’
The danger was too big to ignore, she said.
‘It is life and death,’ she said. ‘It is a public health issue.’
But she also too a dig at social media companies, suggesting they should be doing more.
“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.’
She faced repeated questions about how the administration could be sure that today’s facts are not tomorrows falsehoods and vice versa, with journalists citing the example about how statements linking the coronavirus to a lab leak had once been flagged as misinformation, but were now being reevaluated.
The contentious briefing followed the announcement a day earlier that the Biden administration had been flagging problematic posts.
‘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.
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.’