After the Biden administration said Facebook’s existing levels of censorship over the COVID-19 vaccines are not tough enough, the social media giant’s executives said the spat was mostly about finger-pointing and shifting blame for not meeting vaccination targets.
The relationship between Facebook and the Biden administration is multi-faceted. Last week, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said White House staffers frequently run to Facebook to call for anyone spreading what it calls misinformation to be banned from the platform.
But as the week ended, President Joe Biden stomped his foot in anger that Facebook was not doing what it was told and allowed too much debate online over the coronavirus vaccines.
“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that — and they’re killing people,” Biden said Friday, according to The New York Times.
In a blog post on Saturday, headlined “Moving Past the Finger Pointing,” Facebook struck back. Guy Rosen, Facebook’s vice president of integrity, noted that Facebook has cracked down on misinformation.
“The Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies,” Rosen wrote in the post.
“The fact is that vaccine acceptance among Facebook users in the U.S. has increased.”
Rosen wrote that Facebook’s data show that “85% of Facebook users in the US have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19. 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 war between Facebook and Biden is getting nasty. https://t.co/RvUvHdjfdL
— Dinesh D’Souza (@DineshDSouza) July 19, 2021
Further, CNN quoted what it said was a Facebook official claiming the White House is playing a blame game for public consumption.
“In private exchanges the Surgeon General has praised our work, including our efforts to inform people about Covid-19. They knew what they were doing. The White House is looking for scapegoats for missing their vaccine goals,” CNN quoted the official, whose name was not given.
But on Sunday, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy repeated the boss’s line.
“These platforms have to recognize they’ve played a major role in the increase in speed and scale with which misinformation is spreading,” Murthy said during an appearance on CNN, according to The Times.
Murthy also pushed back against CNN’s anonymous source.
“I’ve been very consistent in what I’ve said to the technology companies,” Murthy said, The Times reported. “When we see steps that are good, we should acknowledge those. But what I’ve also said is that it’s not enough. We are still seeing a proliferation of misinformation online.”
Despite the spat, the overall chummy tone of the relationship between Facebook and the White House as they debate how far they should go in censorship has raised concerns.
Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee sent Biden a letter raising First Amendment concerns over the connection Psaki revealed between the White House and Facebook, according to Fox News.
“These revelations are deeply concerning,” she wrote. “The blatant actions by your administration to work with Big Tech companies to censor Americans’ free speech are shocking — and arguably a violation of the First Amendment.”
Blackburn wanted to know the basis for the White House calling for Facebook users to be muzzled for spreading what the administration considers to be “misinformation.”
“What criteria are you directing social media platforms to use to flag and remove posts?” she asked in the letter. “What criteria are you directing social media platforms to use to ban users?”
“What is the legal basis for your Administration’s decision to direct social media platforms to flag and remove posts from their sites?” she wrote.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.