Facebook on Saturday pushed back at President Joe Biden for the second time in as many days, suggesting the company has been more effective than the government in promoting Covid-19 vaccination after Biden said the social media behemoth is “killing people” with misinformation.
Asked Friday for his message to social media platforms regarding vaccinations, Biden said, “They’re killing people.”
“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and that’s — they’re killing people,” he continued.
Facebook refuted the criticism Friday, saying 2 billion people have viewed the science that vaccination works on the platform, and that more than 3.3 million Americans used its vaccination finder tool.
On Saturday, it doubled down, saying its data, collected with the help of Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Maryland, adds up to the platform appearing to outperform the Biden administration on fostering “vaccine acceptance.”
“The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the US have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” said Guy Rosen, the company’s vice president of integrity. “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 has encouraged Americans to get inoculated through tools that include its vaccination finder and optional “profile frames” that show when friends have been vaccinated.
Rosen said “vaccine hesitancy” on the platform has declined 50 percent, ostensibly since the rollout of vaccines in January.
“We have been doing our part,” he said as part of a presentation-style statement Facebook published Saturday afternoon.
The Biden administration admitted it missed its goal of having 70 percent of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4, posting a 67 percent rate.
But actual vaccination and people expressing that they’re less hesitant or more likely to become inoculated are different things.
Critics have noted that conservative and far-right outlets and figures often associated with vaccine hesitancy dominate the daily list of top 10 Facebook posts culled from the platform’s own data by New York Times tech columnist Kevin Roose.
Fox News posts have consistently been top performers on Facebook, taking the top spot Friday. An analysis by Media Matters For America on Friday concluded that a majority of Fox News on-air content in most of June and part of July “relentlessly undermined” vaccination efforts.
“Fox’s weekday evening opinion shows — Fox News Primetime, Tucker Carlson Tonight, Hannity, and The Ingraham Angle — promoted claims undermining and downplaying immunization in all of their coronavirus vaccine segments,” the report said.
As the Delta variant of the coronavirus is now responsible for more than half of new infections in the U.S., Dr. Anthony Fauci said last week that more than 99 percent of people who died from Covid-19 in June were unvaccinated.
With the rate of U.S. infections doubling in recent days, a spike largely attributed to the Delta variant, and vaccinations slowing, Biden administration officials have lashed out at misinformation they blame for hesitancy.
“We’ve got to recognize sometimes the most trusted voices are not the ones that have the most followers on social media or the ones that have the most name recognition,” Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said Thursday.
Dylan Byers and Elyse Perlmutter-Gumbiner contributed.