There was no nuance, no hedging in President Biden's answer Friday when he was asked if he had anything to say to social media companies in the face of the worsening pandemic. "They're killing people," Biden said. He added, "The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated"; cases are climbing fastest in places where the fewest people have been vaccinated against the illness. The White House is delivering the message that health misinformation on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and other sites is doing harm. Facebook cites its truthful information about vaccines and COVID-19, as well as its vaccine finder, in arguing that the site is helping to save lives. Kara Swisher writes in an opinion piece in the New York Times that there's a case to be made for Biden's blunt accusation.
"The truth is that Facebook serves as a gateway to both," Swisher writes, "presenting clearly solid information about COVID, as well as a place where an enormous flood of lies about it has overwhelmed the same zone—and for a much longer time." Facebook can't be blamed for former President Trump voicing some of that misinformation, Swisher says, but the social media sites waited too long to do anything about it. Fox News deserves blame, too, as do the people who decided not to be vaccinated without doing enough to check the facts themselves. But she concedes, "the ability to resist social media juggernauts pales in comparison to the tremendous power of these platforms to amplify bad information." Facebook isn't exactly killing people because its technology is being used to spread misinformation, Swisher writes, but it is the reason that lies have such reach. You can read the full piece here. (Read more social media stories.)