Biden softens tone on Facebook, urges action on vaccine misinformation


U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the economy at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 19, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden took a softer tone when talking about Facebook Inc on Monday, after saying last week that the social media company was "killing people" by allowing the spread of misinformation about COVID-19 vaccines.

Biden told reporters on Monday he meant to accuse a dozen users who spread the most amount of misinformation on the social media platform, but not the company itself.

"Facebook isn’t killing people," he said. "These 12 people are out there giving misinformation. Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It's killing people. It's bad information."

He also said he hopes that Facebook does more to stop the spread of misinformation.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki also tried to clarify Biden's remarks. "We are not in a war or a battle with Facebook, we're in a battle with the virus," she said.

COVID-19 misinformation has spread during the pandemic on social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and Alphabet-owned YouTube. Researchers and lawmakers have long accused Facebook of failing to police harmful content on its platforms.

When asked on Friday about his message to Facebook and other social media platforms, Biden responded: "They're killing people. ... Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people."

Facebook responded sharply last week, saying that 85% of its users were vaccinated or wanted to be. "President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed," Facebook said in a corporate blog post by Guy Rosen, a company vice president.

The company has introduced rules against making specific false claims about COVID-19 and vaccines to prevent the illness, and says it provides people with reliable information on these topics.

(Reporting by Steve Holland and Nandita Bose; Writing by Diane Bartz; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Paul Simao)

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