W.He is vaccinated against Covid-19, has a microchip implanted, cannot have children or even dies after a while – the lies that are being spread online and offline about the Covid-19 vaccination leave many people at a loss. In the United States, the right-wing politicized first virus precautions and then vaccination. The Democrats have accused tech companies like Facebook and Twitter of not doing enough about disinformation. President Joe Biden was even clearer on Friday. “They kill people,” he said when journalists asked his opinion on social media and its role in fighting the pandemic. Biden added, “You see, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated.”
Apparently the White House wants to at least increase public pressure on Internet companies. Vivek Murthy, who holds the title of “Surgeon General” as the highest-ranking medical doctor in the government, published his first official recommendations last week. He had also clearly warned against disinformation campaigns on social networks.
“A great danger to the health of the population”
According to Murthy, the companies responsible are not doing enough to combat misinformation. The untruths spread online represented a major threat to the health of the population. Companies would have to take on more responsibility than before. On Sunday, Murthy confirmed to the broadcaster CNN: “These platforms must recognize that they have played a significant role in the increase and faster dissemination of misinformation.”
Facebook, Twitter and Youtube said they are already cracking down on false claims. In this way, users would also be explicitly referred to official sources of information, such as the CDC, for example. Facebook stated that several accounts named by Murthy as examples had already been blocked. Last fall, Facebook banned ads that were directed against the vaccination. In the spring, several Democrats led by Senator Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota called on social networks to do more against disinformation campaigns.
Representatives from Facebook reacted particularly angry because Murthy had called the network by name. Guy Rosen, vice of corporate integrity, wrote that Facebook was not responsible for slowing the vaccination campaign – the government should stop pointing the finger at individual companies. Data showed that 85 percent of Facebook users were vaccinated or wanted to get vaccinated, said Rosen. How the number was obtained is not clear. The government had asked the company to release data on the spread of misinformation. Brian Boland, former vice president of strategic partnerships at Facebook, told CNN on Sunday that the company had this data and should make it public.
A third of Republicans against vaccination
False information about alleged side effects of vaccines or the alleged dangers of wearing a mask is not only spread over the Internet. Television celebrities like Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson from Fox News often suggest without evidence that the vaccines could be “dangerous” – they portray the immunization campaign as an attack on freedom not infrequently further dramatized.
Meanwhile, a few conservatives admit that refusal to vaccinate is causing damage, especially in states dominated by the Republic. According to a poll by the Washington Post, a third of Republicans are against the injection. Mitt Romney, a Senator from Utah and one of the few Republican opponents of Donald Trump, said last week that it was a “huge mistake” not to get vaccinated. The politicization of the topic is “idiotic”. However, conservative media people do not allow themselves to be controlled by politicians, said Romney. Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell stressed the importance of vaccination several times – in the end, however, he could only “speak for himself,” he said last week. Conservative voters hear vaguely from the top of the party, and conspiracy fantasies can find their way into this loophole.
Most of all, Biden’s anger on Friday showed that the government is under pressure. The nationwide number of new Covid infections has doubled in recent weeks. At the beginning of last week, there were an average of 23,600 new cases a day, three weeks earlier, 11,300 had been reported. Areas with low vaccination rates and no precautionary measures in public spaces, such as Florida or Mississippi, are particularly affected. The delta variant of the coronavirus now accounts for around half of all new infections.
At the same time, the vaccination campaign has slowed down in recent months. According to the authorities, 48.4 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. The percentage also includes all children; around 60 percent of those over 18 years of age have received all of the prescribed vaccination doses. While 3.38 million doses were administered in one day in mid-April, the current figure is 520,000. Originally, Biden’s goal was to have taken care of 70 percent of all adults by July 4th. In many places, the fact that this mark has still not been reached is no longer due to the logistics, but to the citizens.