- White House chief of staff Ron Klain said Facebook is “a giant source” of vaccine misinformation.
- In a call with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Klain pressed the social media giant to “do better.”
- “This is a life or death situation,” Klain told NYT’s Kara Swisher on her podcast “Sway.”
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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is facing harsh criticism from President Biden’s White House over vaccine misinformation.
“I’ve told Mark Zuckerberg directly that when we gather groups of people who are not vaccinated, and we ask them, ‘Why aren’t you vaccinated?’ and they tell us things that are wrong, tell us things that are untrue, and we ask them where they’ve heard that. The most common answer is Facebook,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain told Kara Swisher on “Sway,” her New York Times podcast.
“And so we know it has become a giant source of misinformation and disinformation about the vaccines,” Klain added.
The last time the Klain and Zuckerberg spoke, he urged the CEO to “do better” at moderating COVID-19 vaccine misinformation on Facebook.
“His response was he cited the efforts Facebook was undertaking to try to put out good information, and I told him I recognize that Facebook is a source of a lot of good information about vaccines,” Klain said on the podcast. “But it also unfortunately is a source of a lot of bad information about vaccines.”
In a statement to Insider, a Facebook representative said the company has, “removed more than 18 million pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram that violate our COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation policies, and labeled more than 167 million pieces of COVID-19 content rated false by our network of fact checking partners.”
Facebook has struggled and occasionally outright refused to moderate speech on its platforms.
A Wall Street Journal report from May 2020 revealed that executives, including Zuckerberg, declined to moderate the service even when faced with evidence that its algorithms, “exploit the human brain’s attraction to divisiveness.” And in 2019, the company took a hard stand on fact-checking political ads in the lead up to the tumultuous presidential election.
Klain said he urged Zuckerberg to be extra vigilant on vaccine misinformation given the seriousness of the situation: Nearly 4 million people have died worldwide from COVID so far, according to the World Health Organization.
“I’ll let Mark Zuckerberg speak for himself, he certainly can,” Klain said. “But there is just no question that a lot of misinformation about the vaccines is coming from postings on Facebook. And this is a life or death situation here.”
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