Facebook on Saturday refuted statements by President Joe Biden that social media platforms “kill people” by allowing misinformation about coronavirus vaccines on their services, arguing that vaccine adoption has indeed increased among its users in the United States
In a blog post, Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen pointed out data suggesting that vaccination reluctance among US users has decreased by 50%, and 85% of users said they had been vaccinated against Covid-19 be or would like to be vaccinated.
“These and other facts tell a very different story from the one the government has been promoting in recent days,” wrote Rosen.
Rosen also pointed to the Biden government’s narrowly missed target of vaccinating 70% of Americans by July 4th, arguing that Facebook “is not why that target was missed.”
Facebook’s response comes after the president was asked on the South Lawn of the White House on Friday what his message was to companies like Facebook regarding Covid misinformation. When asked, Biden replied: “They kill people.”
“I mean, they really, you see, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that is – they kill people,” said the president, echoing previous comments from White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Psaki said at a news conference last week that the Biden government had reported problematic posts for Facebook spreading misinformation, including false information that the Covid-19 vaccine causes infertility.
The press secretary urged Facebook and other social media companies to tackle misinformation, including publicly sharing data about the impact of misinformation on their services, promoting quality sources of information in their feed algorithm, and taking action against harmful posts more quickly.
Covid-19 deaths are on the rise again in the US as the Delta variant affects largely unvaccinated parts of the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The US reports an average of 530,000 vaccinations per day over the past week.
Read the full Facebook blog post here:
At a time when COVID-19 cases in America are on the rise, the Biden government has decided to blame a handful of American social media companies. While social media plays an important role in society, it is clear that we need a societal approach to end this pandemic. And facts – not allegations – should help to support this effort. The fact is, vaccine adoption has increased among Facebook users in the US. These and other facts tell a very different story than the one that has been propagated by the administration in recent days.
Since April 2020, we’ve been partnering with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Maryland on a global survey to gather insights into COVID-19 symptoms, tests, vaccination rates, and more. This is the largest survey of its kind with a total of over 70 million responses and more than 170,000 responses daily in more than 200 countries and territories. For Facebook users in the US, vaccination hesitation has decreased by 50%; and they are accepting more vaccines every day.
Since January, US Facebook user acceptance of vaccines has increased 10-15 percentage points (70% → 80-85%) and the racial and ethnic acceptability gaps have narrowed significantly (some of the populations with the lowest acceptance levels in January the highest increases since). The results of this survey are public and we have shared them with the White House, the CDC, and other key partners of the federal government, along with other data requested by the administration.
The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the US have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. President Biden’s goal was that by July 4th, 70% of Americans should be vaccinated. Facebook isn’t the reason this goal was missed.
In fact, increased uptake of vaccines has been observed on and off Facebook, and many US executives are working to make it happen. We have used similar tactics in the UK and Canada, which have a Facebook usage rate similar to the US, and those countries have vaccinated more than 70% of the eligible populations. All of this suggests that the US result is more than Facebook.
Now vaccination efforts are rightly turned to improving access and availability for hard-to-reach people. Because of this, we recently expanded our pop-up vaccine clinics in low-income and underserved communities. To promote reliable vaccine information to communities with less access to vaccines, we use the CDC’s Social Vulnerability Index. This is a publicly available dataset that emergency responders often use to identify communities most likely in need of assistance, as areas of higher risk have lower COVID-19 vaccination rates.
We have also made our contribution in other areas:
- Since the pandemic began, more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook. That includes more than 3.3 million Americans who use our Vaccine Finder tool to find out where to get a COVID-19 vaccine and to schedule an appointment for it.
- More than 50% of the people in the US on Facebook have already seen someone use the COVID-19 vaccine profile frames that we developed in partnership with the US Department of Health and the CDC. From what we’ve seen, seeing that a friend has been vaccinated reinforces their perception that vaccines are safe.
- We continue to encourage everyone to use these tools to show their friends that they have been vaccinated. For those who are hesitant, hearing from a friend who has been vaccinated is no doubt more powerful than hearing from a large corporation or the federal government.
And when we see misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines, we take action against it.
- Since the pandemic began, we’ve removed over 18 million cases of COVID-19 misinformation.
- We have also flagged and reduced the visibility of more than 167 million COVID-19 content exposed by our network of fact-checking partners so that fewer people see it and – when they do – have full context.
In fact, we’ve already implemented all eight of the Surgeon General’s recommendations on what tech companies can do. And we continue to work with health professionals to update the list of false claims that we are removing from our platform. We publish these rules for everyone to read and review, and we update them regularly as new trends emerge.
The Biden government calls for a societal approach to this challenge. Do we agree? As a company, we have invested unprecedented resources in fighting the pandemic, providing people with reliable information and helping them find and plan vaccinations. And we will continue to do so.
– CNBC’s Salvador Rodriguez contributed to this report.