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Biden softens comment about Facebook "killing people" because of COVID misinformation

President Biden significantly clarified his Friday message to Facebook and other platforms after stating that they're "killing people" by allowing COVID-19 misinformation to spread. The president on Monday insisted that he meant the misinformation itself is ultimately killing people. 

On his way to Camp David on Friday, Mr. Biden was asked what his message is to social media platforms like Facebook regarding the spread of such misinformation. He responded: "They're killing people. I mean, it really. Look, The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they're killing people."

But on Monday, when a reporter asked him after a speech on the economy about that statement, the president said "Facebook isn't killing people." 

"Facebook isn't killing people. These 12 people are out there giving misinformation," Mr. Biden said, possibly referring to a report that concluded 12 individuals are behind the majority of all COVID-19 misinformation. "Anyone listening to it is getting hurt by it. It's killing people. It's bad information. 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. That's what I meant."

Mr. Biden also said the he was "trying to get people to look in the mirror" with his comments on Friday.

"Think about that misinformation going to your son, your daughter, your relative, someone you love," he said "That's what I'm asking."

White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday insisted that, "Our fight is not just with one social media platform; it is with the virus. And we have a role, everybody has a role in combatting disinformation."

Facebook over the weekend responded to Mr. Biden's initial comment with a statement from vice president of integrity Guy Rosen touting the platform's progress in increasing vaccine acceptance among its users.

"The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the U.S. have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19," Rosen wrote. "President Biden's goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed."

Last week, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy issued an advisory declaring COVID-19 misinformation and other health-related misinformation a serious public health threat

"We must confront misinformation as a nation. Every one of us has the power and the responsibility to make a difference in this fight. Lives are depending on it," Murthy said. 

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