Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Joe Biden

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the nation's economic recovery amid the Covid-19 pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on July 19, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Biden Clarifies 'Facebook Isn't Killing People' After Blaming Social Media Companies for Covid-19 Deaths

"It's bad information" about vaccines that is killing people, the president said.

Brett Wilkins

U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday clarified his remarks from last week that social media companies like Facebook are "killing people" by allowing the spread of Covid-19 misinformation, explaining instead that users are posting deadly "bad information."

"By remaining the platform of choice for insurrectionists, extremists, and far right radicals, Facebook continues to wallow in filth—from Q-anon to January 6th to Covid disinformation."
—The Real Facebook Oversight Board

Last Friday, Biden responded to a reporter's question about Covid-19 misinformation on social media platforms by saying "they're killing people" and that "the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated."

Asked on Monday about his comment, Biden replied, "I meant precisely what I said."

"Facebook isn't killing people—these 12 people are out there giving misinformation," the president said, echoing comments by White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on Friday that a dozen people are responsible for nearly two-thirds of all anti-vaccine posts on social media, and that "all of them remain active on Facebook."

Biden said that "anyone listening" to the misinformation "is getting hurt by it."

"It's killing people," he reiterated. "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," said Biden. "That's what I meant."

The White House remarks on Friday followed U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy's issuance of an advisory entitled Confronting Health Misinformation (pdf), which calls on "all Americans to help slow the spread of health misinformation during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond."

Appearing on CNN Sunday, Murthy backed up the White House's Friday comments by saying: "I've been very consistent in what I have said to the technology companies... health misinformation harms people's health. It costs them their lives."

The Real Facebook Oversight Board—a self-described "emergency response to the ongoing harms on Facebook's platforms from leading global scholars, experts, and advocates"—defended Biden's remarks from last week in a Sunday Medium post stating that "Facebook's lack of oversight and any coherent content moderation strategy is driving vaccinations down and Covid infections up."

The group noted that "11 out of the top 15 vaccine related-posts on Facebook last week were disinformation or anti-vaccine."

"Facebook has a Covid disinformation problem because Facebook has a right-wing extremism problem," the post asserted. "By remaining the platform of choice for insurrectionists, extremists, and far right radicals, Facebook continues to wallow in filth—from QAnon to January 6th to Covid disinformation."

In a Saturday blog post entitled "Moving Past the Finger Pointing," Facebook vice president of integrity Guy Rosen wrote that "the data shows that 85% of Facebook users in the U.S. have been or want to be vaccinated against Covid-19."

"President Biden's goal was for 70% of Americans to be vaccinated by July 4. Facebook is not the reason this goal was missed," Rosen added.

Biden's remarks about Facebook ignited a firestorm of right-wing backlash, including more misinformation. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) tweeted that "this is how communism starts."

"The White House is working with Facebook to censor your post which is violating your free speech because people want to discuss... a non-FDA approved vaccine that the Biden administration wants to force you to take," Greene lied. Her tweet was the top vaccine-related post in the U.S. on Friday, according to CrowdTangle, a Facebook-owned social insights tool.

The Facebook fracas comes as the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 is largely responsible for a 70% surge in new U.S. infections last week, with hospitalizations up by more than one-third. Less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, with the nation's inoculation drive stalled amid hesitancy partially driven by misinformation.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

'A Day of Shame': Australia Lobbying Thwarts Push to List Great Barrier Reef as Endangered

Greenpeace Australia called Friday's World Heritage Committee vote "a victory for one of the most cynical lobbying efforts in recent history."

Jake Johnson ·


Revealing 'Extreme and Regressive Strategy,' Mississippi Asks SCOTUS to Overturn Roe

"This has always been the anti-choice movement's agenda behind closed doors—now they're operating in plain sight."

Andrea Germanos ·


'A Huge Outrage': Senate Panel Approves $25 Billion Pentagon Budget Increase

"Not so incidentally, the $25 billion spending increase approved by the Senate Armed Services Committee exactly matches the cost to scale up Covid-19 vaccine production to meet global demand."

Jake Johnson ·


Sanders, Lee, and Murphy Slam Biden Administration's First Drone Strike in Somalia

"It's time to do away with questionable legal justifications claimed by one administration after the next for acts of war like this."

Jake Johnson ·


Progressives Demand Probe After Revelations About FBI Investigation of Kavanaugh

"Survivors deserve justice, and the country deserves to know the full truth of this situation, as well as the lengths the Trump administration was willing to go to cover up the truth."

Jessica Corbett ·