President Biden sparked backlash on social media Friday after he accused Facebook of "killing people" – as the White House's partnership with Big Tech companies to crack down on so-called coronavirus "misinformation" was raising major free-speech concerns among critics.
Biden's comments went viral after a reporter asked him what his message was to "platforms like Facebook" on the subject of "COVID misinformation."
"They’re killing people," Biden responded. "The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they’re killing people."
The president's hyperbolic rhetoric was slammed on Twitter.
"@POTUS is right about Big Tech’s role, he’s just pointing his finger at the wrong problem," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis. reacted. "It’s their suppression and censorship of early treatment that has cost lives. Social media should have been an open forum for solutions, instead it has become a tool for Big Brother."
"Are social media companies also guilty of 'killing people' if they allow content encouraging people to be obese, to consume fatty junk food, content which glorifies cigarette smoking and large amounts of alcohol consumption and a sedentary lifestyle?" journalist Glenn Greenwald wondered.
"This is authoritarian nonsense," Ben Shapiro reacted.
"Every corrupt regime since the beginning of time has framed its silencing of citizens as being in the public good," wrote Erielle Davidson of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America.
"Wow I’m sometime critical of FB but I have not accused them of murder. This is who FB is aligning with. Brilliant," American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp wrote, knocking the tech giant.
Facebook released a statement Friday appearing to object to Biden’s statement, arguing that the company is actually saving lives, not ending them.
"We will not be distracted by accusations which aren’t supported by the facts," Facebook said in a statement. "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."
Biden's remarks came as White House press secretary Jen Psaki has been generating headlines of her own regarding the Biden administration's effort to "flag" what it considers to be "misinformation" on Facebook amid the struggle to vaccinate more Americans.
"So we're regularly making sure social media platforms are aware of the latest narratives, dangerous to public health that we and many other Americans are seeing across all of social and traditional media," Psaki said. "And we work to engage with them to better understand the enforcement of social media platform policies."
She added, "As you all know information travels quite quickly. If it's up there for days and days and days. When people see it, you know, there's, it's hard to put that back in a box, and of course, promoting quality information algorithms, I don't know how they work, but they all do know how they work."