Pres on FB

July 18, 2021

Who’s To Blame?

The U.S. president says social media companies are "killing people" by not more aggressively policing misinformation on COVID-19.
Facebook fires back.
The showdown between the president and the world's leading social media platform: Who has the public's trust?


  • During a press briefing at the White House on Thursday, the surgeon general issued a “Surgeon General’s Advisory” – which is “reserved for urgent public health threats.”
  • The threat? “… misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation’s health.”
  • Advisory: Requests the public, healthcare workers, education institutions, and technology companies do more to combat bad information about the COVID-19 pandemic.
"… the truth is that misinformation takes away our freedom to make informed decisions …"

U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy. Although citing an “all-of-society” approach to combating misinformation, most of his briefing focused on tech companies which he said should “help lift up the voices of credible health authorities,” because otherwise voices of health care professionals, officials, & scientists get “drowned out.” “Modern technology companies have enabled misinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to their users.”

“They’re killing people … the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated … they’re killing people,

Pres. Biden when asked Friday about the impact of social media’s misinformation. The White House press secretary specifically said Facebook should measure the reach of misinformation, act more quickly to take it down, promote higher-quality posts, and coordinate an “enforcement strategy” (the White House said “about 12 people” produce 65% of “anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms” but aren’t consistently banned across Facebook platforms).

“The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period."

Facebook spokesman Kevin McAlister. Facebook owns Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp (among others) and has nearly 3 billion users. Facebook also said, “We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts. The fact is that more than 2 billion people have viewed authoritative information about COVID-19 and vaccines on Facebook, which is more than any other place on the internet.”

Why is the White House taking on social media companies now? The Wall Street Journal reports the tension between Facebook and the White House escalated in recent months. The White House wanted to meet a July 4th deadline of having 70% of American adults vaccinated; they did not meet that goal. On Monday, the White House press secretary said that “we’re not in a war or a battle with Facebook; we’re in a battle with the virus,” but also said she would not take any legal or regulatory actions off the table.


The Wall Street Journal: “Biden’s Facebook Attack Followed Months of Frustration Inside White House”

CNCB: “Biden on Facebook: ‘They’re killing people’ with vaccine misinformation”

The White House: “Press Briefing by Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Surgeon General Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, July 15, 2021”

by Jenna Lee,