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Biden backtracks, says 'Facebook isn't killing people'

The US president is still pressing the social network to do more to combat vaccine misinformation.

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US President Joe Biden reiterated his hope that Facebook will better police vaccine misinformation on their platform. 

Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

US President Joe Biden on Monday walked back his criticism of platforms like Facebook, clarifying that it's vaccine misinformation that's "killing people," not the company.

"Facebook isn't killing people, these 12 people are out there giving misinformation," Biden said, referring to a dozen accounts. "Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It's killing people. It's bad information."

Last Friday, Biden was asked what his message was to platforms like Facebook. In response, Biden said "they're killing people," adding that "the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated."

The remarks increased tensions between Biden and Facebook, prompting the social media giant to push back against the president's remarks. In a blog post on Saturday, Guy Rosen, Facebook's vice president of integrity, outlined the steps the company has taken to combat vaccine misinformation and to encourage the public to get vaccinated. 

"At a time when COVID-19 cases are rising in America, the Biden administration has chosen to blame a handful of American social media companies," Rosen said.

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy also issued an advisory last week, saying health misinformation is an "urgent threat" to the public amid the pandemic. White House press secretary Jen Psaki had also said there are about a dozen people creating 65% of the vaccine misinformation on social media platforms. The data appears to come from a report published in March by the Center for Countering Digital Hate

Biden pressed Facebook to do more to combat vaccine misinformation even as he soften his stance. 

"My hope is that Facebook, instead of taking it personally, that somehow I'm saying Facebook is killing people, that they would do something about the misinformation, the outrageous misinformation about the vaccine."

Facebook said it's taken down more than 18 million pieces of COVID-19 misinformation.