Sources familiar with the government’s thinking say that the White House has YouTube on its list of social media platforms, not just Facebook, and officials say they are responsible for the alarming spread of misinformation about the COVID vaccine and did not take sufficient measures to stop it .
Just a week ago, President Joe Biden called the failure of Facebook and social media companies to slow the spread of vaccine misinformation a “killer.” Since then, his tone has softened.
A senior government official said that one of the key issues is “inconsistent law enforcement.” YouTube—a division of Alphabet’s Google—and Facebook can decide what misinformation is on their platform. But the result upset the White House.
A government official said in describing their approach to handling COVID misinformation: “Facebook and YouTube…are the judges, juries, and executioners of what happened on their platforms.” “They can grade their homework.”
The official said that some of the major vaccine misinformation that the Biden administration is fighting against include the COVID-19 vaccine is ineffective, false claims that they contain microchips, and that they can harm women’s fertility.
The social media company was recently criticized by Biden, his press secretary Jen Psaki, and surgeon Vivek Murthy, who all stated that the spread of falsehoods about vaccines has made fighting the pandemic and saving lives more difficult.
A recent report from the Center for Anti-Digital Hate (CCDH) showed that 12 anti-vaccine accounts are spreading nearly two-thirds of anti-vaccine misinformation online. Six of these accounts are still posted on YouTube.
The official said, “We want to see everyone take more action” to limit the spread of inaccurate information in these accounts.
Despite the risks posed by the Delta variant, the speed of vaccination has slowed significantly. People in many parts of the country are hostile to vaccination. Therefore, combating vaccine misinformation has become the top priority of the Biden administration.
Another senior government official said at the time that after the White House sought help from Facebook, Twitter, and Google in February on combating COVID misinformation to stop its spread, it made demands on Facebook and YouTube.
“When it comes to vaccine misinformation, Facebook is like the 800-pound gorilla in the room… But Google has a lot of problems to solve, and it’s always because people forget that they own YouTube, so they always try to Escape,” said Imran Ahmed of CCDH, founder and CEO.
YouTube spokesperson Elena Hernandez said that since March 2020, the company has deleted more than 900,000 videos that contain COVID-19 misinformation and terminated those identified in the CCDH report The person’s YouTube channel. She said the company’s policy is based on the content of the video, not the speaker.
“If any remaining channels mentioned in the report violate our policy, we will take action, including permanent termination,” she said.
On Monday, YouTube also said that it will add more credible health information and tags for viewers to click.
The senior government official cited four issues that the government requires Facebook to provide specific data, but the company has been reluctant to comply.
These include how much vaccine misinformation exists on its platform, who has seen the inaccurate statement, what steps the company is taking to contact them, and how Facebook knows that the measures it is taking are working.
The official said that the answer given by Facebook was “not good enough.” Facebook spokesperson Kevin McAlister said that since the beginning of the pandemic, the company has deleted more than 18 million COVID-19 misinformation, and its own data shows that For Americans, since January, hesitation about vaccines has dropped by 50%. And the acceptance of the vaccine is very high.
In another blog post last Saturday, Facebook called on the government to stop “pointing” and listed measures to encourage users to get vaccinated.
But the government official said that this blog post does not have any measure of success. The official said that the Biden administration’s widespread concern is that these platforms “either lied to us and hid the ball, or they did not take it seriously, nor did they conduct an in-depth analysis of what happened on their platform.” “This makes them question any solution.”
© Thomson Reuters 2021