President Joe Biden said Friday that social media companies are “killing people” by failing to police misinformation on their platforms about COVID-19 vaccines.
Biden’s comments came a day after U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy declared misinformation about the vaccines a threat to public health, and as U.S. officials advised that deaths and serious illness from the virus are almost entirely preventable because of the vaccines.
Biden, asked if he had a message for platforms like Facebook where false or misleading information about the coronavirus vaccines has spread, told reporters, “They’re killing people.”
“The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated,” he said.
Speaking Thursday, Murthy said misinformation about COVID-19, deemed an “infodemic” by the World Health Organization, was deadly.
“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.”
Given the role the internet plays in spreading health misinformation, 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, not counter, 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 spokesperson Dani Lever responded: “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. More than 3.3 million Americans have also used our vaccine finder tool to find out where and how to get a vaccine. The facts show that Facebook is helping save lives. Period.”
Twitter posted on its platform, “As the COVID-19 pandemic evolves around the world, we’ll continue to do our part to elevate authoritative health information.”
The Associated Press
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U.S. senators want social media to be held liable for spreading health misinformation – Global News
Two Democratic U.S. senators on Thursday will add to the stack of bills going after Section 230 — a law that protects tech companies from being sued over content posted by users — making such platforms responsible for health-related misinformation.
The legislation introduced by Amy Klobuchar and Ben Ray Lujan requires internet platforms such as Facebook to take down health and vaccine-related misinformation during public health emergencies or be held liable for that failure.
It also directs the Department of Health & Human Services to issue guidelines on what constitutes health misinformation.
“These are some of the biggest, richest companies in the world and they must do more to prevent the spread of deadly vaccine misinformation,” Klobuchar said.
The bill quotes a study from the Center for Countering Digital Hate that found social media platforms failed to act on 95% of coronavirus-related disinformation reported to them.
Kevin Martin, a vice president of public policy at Facebook, said the company supports reforming Section 230.
Increasing concerns about COVID-19 misinformation
“We believe clarification on the difficult and urgent questions about health related misinformation would be helpful and look forward to working with Congress and the industry as we consider options for reform.”
The Health Misinformation Act is not the first bill targeting tech firms’ liability shield from Senator Klobuchar, who chairs the Senate antitrust subcommittee.
Earlier this year, she co-sponsored another bill called the Safe Tech Act with two fellow Democrats. It aims to make social media companies more accountable for enabling cyber-stalking, targeted harassment and discrimination on their platforms.
The chief executives of Google, Twitter and Facebook have said Section 230 is crucial to free expression on the internet. They said it gives them the tools to strike a balance between preserving free speech and moderating content, even as they appeared open to suggestions that law needs moderate changes.
Health officials warn about disinformation, conspiracies
Several Republican lawmakers have separately pushed to scrap the law entirely over decisions by tech platforms to moderate content critical of former President Donald Trump and his supporters.
There are several other pieces of legislation aimed at changing the law that have been making the rounds for over a year, including a bipartisan bill from Democrat Brian Schatz and Republican John Thune.
Trump repeatedly pushed for the legal protection to be stripped away over what he alleged was censorship against conservatives.
(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Dan Grebler and Sam Holmes)
© 2021 Reuters
Current's 2021 Public Media Salary Survey – Current
Earlier this year, we asked our readers to take an anonymous survey about what they earn as a public media employee. We received more than 1,900 responses. Below, you can enter your salary and use the filters to explore the results and see how you compare to similar public media professionals. Read more about our key findings and email us with any questions, comments and observations.
This survey was conducted as part of On the Money, our special coverage of money in pubmedia.
Thanks to Eric R. Schuler, quantitative/computational research methodologist with American University, who advised us on designing and fielding the survey.
Unit 5 Wants Social Media Use Included In Media Literacy Course – WGLT
The head of curriculum for Normal Community and Normal West high schools says the district already has a good foundation for teaching media literacy.
Illinois high schools will be required to teach media literacy starting with the 2022-23 school year.
Unit 5’s Dan Lamboley said the district currently teaches some basic principles that students need to be media literate so they can better detect fake news, but he wants to see how the new curriculum can help students use social media in a healthy way.
“I see already, in terms of analyzing trustworthiness of sources, already embedded, in particular English and social studies courses that almost all students take,” Lamboley said, adding that he believes media literacy should start in junior high.
Unit 5 includes media literacy as part of its course on digital media that nearly all students take as early as sixth grade.
Lamboley said most students rely heavily on their cell phones for information as early as sixth grade. He’s concerned how that affects their social and emotional well-being if they have an unhealthy amount of social media consumption.
“As soon as kids have a cell phone, it becomes almost 24-7 where they are getting information through social media or they are developing those messages,” he said.
Lamboley said the district teaches digital media to junior high students not just to guide them as readers and viewers, but also as content producers.
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