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Facebook pushes back against Biden claim that social media is ‘killing people’

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, also called out misinformation “that is leading to people not taking the vaccine, and people are dying as a result.” She said the White House had a responsibility to raise the issue.

The White House declined to comment on Facebook’s blog post on Saturday.

Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites have long struggled with their role as platforms for speech while protecting their users from disinformation campaigns, like Russian efforts to influence presidential elections or false statements about the pandemic.

In recent months, Facebook has taken steps against anti-vaccination ads and misstatements about the vaccines. In October, it said it would no longer allow anti-vaccination ads on its platform. In February, the company went further and said it would remove posts with erroneous claims about vaccines, including assertions that vaccines cause autism or that it is safer for people to contract the coronavirus than to receive the vaccinations.

But online misinformation about the vaccines has not been eradicated. Lies have spread that vaccines can alter DNA or that the vaccines don’t work.

On Saturday, Rosen said in the blog post that among Facebook’s American users, vaccine hesitancy had declined by 50 per cent since April and vaccine acceptance had increased by 10 to 15 percentage points, or to over 80 per cent from 70 per cent.

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“While social media plays an important role in society, it is clear that we need a whole of society approach to end this pandemic,” Rosen said. “And facts — not allegations — should help inform that effort.”

The White House’s frustration with Facebook has mounted over several months, people with knowledge of the matter have said. While the Biden administration asked Facebook to share information about the spread of misinformation on the social network, the company refused to cooperate, the people have said.

On Friday, Robert Flaherty, the White House digital director, said in a tweet, “I guess I’m left with a simple question: How many people have seen COVID vaccine misinformation on Facebook?”

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