Ever since the 2016 presidential election, in which people believed the worst and most ludicrous rumors about Secretary Hillary Clinton and it led them to elect the least qualified man in history, the dangers of misinformation have risen to the forefront. There were of course, warning signs long before that point, but it’s opened quite a different world of problems now, as Facebook is rapidly becoming a hot spot of misinformation on COVID-19 at one of the worst possible times.
While Donald Trump has his (highly ineffective) way of dealing with social media, which involves the current lawsuit he’s using as a fundraising scam, and a number of House Republicans have tried to intimidate networks like Twitter and Facebook to make sure their baseless propaganda keeps spreading. President Biden, however, took a different approach when speaking at a White House press conference: “They’re killing people. … Look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they’re killing people,” he said to reporters when asked, putting them on notice. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki reiterated his sentiments, saying there are measures that Facebook could take as a private sector company to cut down on misinformation spread online.
We’ll see where this leads, but the bottom line is that the president of the United States is now urging the social network to take action on a problem that is ultimately a threat to democracy – echoing the sentiments of Democratic senators, several of whom urged the government to take action when they ran for president in 2019 and 2020. We could be on the verge of seeing propaganda and falsehoods curbed online – as the Biden administration shows how it’s done responsibly.
James Sullivan is the assistant editor of Brain World Magazine and an advocate of science-based policy making