Zuckerberg refuses to say how many have viewed COVID misinformation

Mark Zuckerberg refuses to say how many people have viewed COVID misinformation on Facebook – and ducks the question by saying 18 million pieces of content have been removed

  • Zuckerberg dodged a question about COVID misinformation on Facebook
  • Said that 18 million posts with misinformation had been removed from the site
  • But when pressed, would not reveal how many people had viewed the content
  • In July, Biden publicly accused Facebook of ‘killing people’ with misinformation
  • He later walked it back but White House tensions with Facebook remain high
  • At the same time, Republicans are furious over claims of excessive censorship 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has dodged a question about COVID-19 misinformation on the platform, as the company faces fury from the Biden administration over .

In an interview clip shared on Wednesday, CBS This Morning host Gayle King repeatedly pressed Zuckerberg on how many people had viewed pandemic misinformation on Facebook.  

‘One of the things that the White House has asked for repeatedly and still hasn’t gotten a number, is how many people have viewed and shared, do you have that number?’ asked King.

‘Well, if we see harmful misinformation on the platform then we take it down. It’s against our policy. So the 18 million number that I shared is the number, of pieces of content that we’ve seen on the platform that we’ve taken down,’ Zuckerberg responded.

CBS This Morning host Gayle King repeatedly pressed Zuckerberg on how many people had viewed pandemic misinformation on Facebook, but he would not answer directly

He continued: ‘Now do we catch everything? Of course there are mistakes that we make or areas where we need to improve, but that’s the best number that we have in terms of what we’ve seen and what our systems have been able to detect.’

King pressed him further: ‘Those are two separate issues. You’ve taken down 18 million pieces of misinformation, but how many people have viewed the misinformation?’

‘The White House has said at one point that Facebook is killing people. That was very bold and very blunt and provocative, and I think at one point the president walked that back,’ she added.

‘I understand what you’re saying,’ replied Zuckerberg. ‘The number that I have off the top of my head that I can share is the number of pieces of misinformation that we’ve taken action against.’

Zuckerberg also insisted that millions have used Facebook’s vaccine finder to locate appoints for shots, and that hundreds of millions had visited the site’s coronavirus hub to get authoritative misinformation.

The full interview is scheduled to air on Thursday morning on CBS. It comes as tensions between Facebook and the White House continue to simmer, with the Biden administration insisting the company do more to crack down on misinformation. 

Zuckerberg said that Facebook has removed 18 million pieces of pandemic misinformation, but the White House is demanding a harder crackdown and more cooperation

In July, President Joe Biden publicly accused Facebook of ‘killing people’ with misinformation, though he later tempered the statement.

At the other end of the political spectrum, Republicans have grown increasingly enraged with the social media giant over what they see as too much censorship.

Facebook blocked former President Trump from the platform until 2023 and has limited the sharing of articles that could be unfavorable to President Biden. 

Sources close to the Biden administration told the New York Times that the White House believes Facebook, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, was ‘particularly problematic,’ as executives point to steps taken to share factual information but avoid responsibility for falsehoods spread on the platform.

‘We’ve made clear to them when they haven’t lived up to our, or their own, standards and have actively elevated content on their platforms that misleads the American people,’ Mike Gwin, a White House spokesman, said.

Meanwhile Andy Stone, a spokesman for Facebook, said that the White House wasn’t giving the company enough credit for promoting the vaccine, and said Facebook had been working with the White House for ‘many months’ to get people vaccinated.

‘We remove Covid-related content that breaks our rules and continue to link to authoritative health information on all Covid-related posts,’ Stone said. 

A large number of Facebook policies deal with clear misinformation – such as outlawing claims that jabs contain ‘the mark of the beast’, or turn you into a monkey.

At the other end of the political spectrum, Republicans have grown increasingly enraged with the social media giant over what they see as too much censorship

But the site also says it bans ‘claims that COVID-19 vaccines kill or seriously harm people (such as causing blood clots.)’

That is despite the fact that medical regulators in Europe and elsewhere have seen fit to put warnings on AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson jabs saying they can cause blood clots – albeit in vanishingly rare cases.

Facebook also faced controversy when it initially banned suggestions that the virus emerged from a Chinese lab — and then was forced to roll back that policy in March as it became increasingly clear that lab origin was a viable theory.

The Biden team has clashed repeatedly with social media companies over misinformation for years, and White House chief of staff Ron Klain has raised the issue in conversations with Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, according to an official. Biden himself has not spoken with the executive since taking office.

Earlier this month, U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared misinformation about the vaccines a deadly threat to public health.

‘Misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation´s health,’ Murthy said during remarks Thursday at the White House. ‘We must confront misinformation as a nation. Lives are depending on it.’

Murthy said technology companies and social media platforms must make meaningful changes to their products and software to reduce the spread of false information while increasing access to authoritative, fact-based sources.

Too often, he said, the platforms are built in ways that encourage the spread of misinformation.

‘We are asking them to step up,’ Murthy said. ‘We can´t wait longer for them to take aggressive action.’

Facebook on Friday responded to Biden´s attack, with spokesperson Kevin McAlister saying, ‘The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.’

The company also released a blog post saying its internal research showed it was not responsible for Biden’s missed vaccination goal.

‘The data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the US have been or want to be vaccinated against COVID-19,’ the company said. ‘President Biden’s goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed.’ 

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