Friday 19 February 2021 8:16 pm

White House approaches Facebook and Twitter to tackle anti-vaxxers

The White House is in discussions with Facebook, Twitter and Google about ramping up censorship of anti-vaxxer content, as the US seeks to push down the highest coronavirus rates of any country in the world.

New US President Joe Biden has reached out to the companies to stop the spread of Covid misinformation proliferating online, according to Reuters.

Biden has made vaccinations one of his top priorities since taking office, calling the move “a wartime effort.” 

The US has recorded both the highest number of coronavirus cases and Covid-related fatalities of any country in the world. More than 506,000 people in the US have died within 28 days of testing positive since the start of the pandemic.

Ron Klain, the President’s chief of staff, has previously said the administration will try to work with Silicon Valley about tackling anti-vax information across US platforms.

Senator Richard Blumenthal yesterday criticised the platforms for carrying ads that he said fund and promote “dangerous conspiracy theories, Covid19 disinformation and malign foreign propaganda”.

Several recent high-profile protests in the US have been spurred by online misinformation.

Anti-vax demonstrations at the Dodgers Stadium in Los Angeles earlier this month were organised on Facebook through a page that promotes debunked claims about the coronavirus pandemic, masks and immunisation.

The ongoing dispute between the Australian government and Facebook has revealed the extent to which dangerous content can spread online.

Pages and groups dedicated to conspiracy theories and anti-vax misinformation have continued to operate unhindered by the company’s news ban that recently came into effect.

A Facebook spokeswoman said that the company has reached out to the White House to offer “any assistance we can provide” and has recently announced a new policy to remove Covid and vaccine misinformation along with pages, groups, and accounts that repeatedly spread such material.

A Twitter spokesman said the company is “in regular communication with the White House on a number of critical issues including COVID-19 misinformation.”