After a quick start, the US vaccination campaign stalled. Especially in states with a low vaccination rate, the number of infections is rising rapidly again. The US government sees fake news as one reason for this.
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US President Joe Biden has toned down his massive criticism of Facebook for spreading false information about the coronavirus. Not the social network kills people, but users who misused the platform for deadly lies, Biden told reporters at the White House.
The US President referred to a recent study, according to which around a dozen accounts on Facebook are said to be responsible for the vast majority of incorrect information about the corona vaccinations. “Facebook doesn’t kill people,” he said, “those twelve people out there are spreading misinformation. Anyone who hears it will be hurt by it. It kills people. It’s bad information.”
His hope is that Facebook will take its allegations less personally than to deal with the outrageous fake news about the vaccinations, said Biden. That’s what it’s about him.
Biden: “They’re killing people”
In the past few days, the US government had repeatedly criticized the platform and called for false information to be contained. When asked by a reporter what message he wanted to send to Facebook and Co., Biden said on Friday: “You are killing people”. The pandemic in the USA has become a “pandemic among the unvaccinated”. According to the US government, fake news on social networks is partly responsible for the wait-and-see or negative attitude of many Americans towards the corona vaccines.
In the USA, the number of new infections has recently risen again rapidly in areas with a lower vaccination rate, driven by the particularly contagious Delta variant. The vaccination campaign, on the other hand, is only making slow progress. According to the CDC health authority, a good 185 million people have received at least the first corona vaccination so far – this corresponds to around 56 percent of the entire population.
Facebook rejected Biden’s criticism as unfounded. “We will not be distracted by allegations that are not supported by facts,” said a company spokesman. It is a fact that more than two billion people have found important and accurate information about the coronavirus on Facebook. In addition, 3.3 million Americans have used Facebook’s feature that allows users to find out how and where they can be vaccinated. “The facts show that Facebook helps save lives. Period,” said the spokesman.
Speaker: Fake news would be deleted too late
Nevertheless, the US government had previously intensified its criticism again. Facebook must remove posts that violate the guidelines and are incorrect, said White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki. Some posts would stay online for days. “It’s too long, information is spreading too quickly,” said Psaki. About two-thirds of the misinformation only goes back to a dozen accounts, which is why Facebook could easily take action against it, argued Psaki. False claims such as the rumor that corona vaccinations could allegedly lead to infertility must be dealt with, she said.
The U.S. government’s top health official, Vivek Murthy, officially declared the misinformation to be a health risk on Thursday. “We live in a world today where misinformation is an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health,” he said. During the pandemic, misinformation resulted in people not wearing masks. Now people would choose not to get vaccinated because of this. Modern technology companies have made it possible for “misinformation to poison our information environment,” he complained.
On average, according to the CDC, the USA recently recorded a good 26,000 new infections per day, which corresponds to an increase of almost 70 percent compared to the previous week. The number of people admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and the number of deaths reported per week also rose again recently. “We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination rates,” said CDC chief Rochelle Walensky. In regions where many people are vaccinated, the situation is much better. “This is becoming a pandemic for the unvaccinated,” she warned.