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Fahrenthold: ‘Huge public health payoff’ if Facebook were to ban vaccine misinformation

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks about the nation's economic recovery amid the COVID pandemic in the State Dining Room of the White House on July 19, 2021. Biden reiterated his hope that Facebook will better police vaccine misinformation on their platform. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Joe Biden has since walked back his recent comment that Facebook is killing people.

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“I thought that was something that Biden had said that made a point — he made it very strongly — and I thought most people understood his meaning,” said David Fahrenthold, reporter at the Washington Post and weekly guest of Seattle’s Morning News. “Not that Facebook was killing people, but that Facebook was allowing misinformation of vaccines to spread, which is leading people to not get vaccinated, and then die of COVID. So I was a little surprised he walked it back. But I think the meaning is still there.”

“I guess it shows that both he and Donald Trump can be mad at Facebook in irrational ways,” replied KIRO Radio’s Dave Ross.

That said, if they banned all the misinformation and rumors from Facebook, would it really change anyone’s mind? As Dave said, most people who are against vaccines are against vaccines because they’re against vaccines, not necessarily just because of something they read on Facebook.

“To me, it seems like it would make it harder to spread the misinformation,” Fahrenthold said about the information being banned. “Facebook is just such a great — that what makes it a successful company is it makes it so easy to spread one fact, one message to millions of people.”

“Facebook already has rules about pornography, they have rules about weapons, violence,” he added. “There are things they don’t let you [see], that they’re very good at finding and eliminating, and so why not add vaccine misinformation to it? It would take a little more work, but I think  there would be a huge public health payoff.”

Listen to this week’s full interview with David Fahrenthold in the audio player above or online here.

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News weekday mornings from 5 – 9 a.m. on KIRO Radio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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