U.S. congressman presses Facebook, Amazon on efforts to curb vaccine misinformation

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) speaks during the opening hearing of the U.S. House (Select) Committee investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., July 27, 2021. REUTERS/Jim Bourg/Pool

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Democratic Representative Adam Schiff called on Facebook Inc and Amazon.com Inc on Thursday to provide a more thorough explanation of their efforts to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation.

“Despite some concrete and positive steps previously taken, these companies owe both the public and the Congress additional answers about the exponential and dangerous proliferation of misinformation,” Schiff, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said in a statement after sending letters to the companies.

U.S. technology companies have come under fire from the Biden administration and other critics for the alarming spread of vaccine misinformation that they say is slowing inoculation in the country and increasing hostility to vaccines.

Other companies, including Twitter Inc and Alphabet Inc’s Google and YouTube, have also faced criticism for allowing false information on COVID-19, including vaccines, to proliferate.

An Amazon spokesperson said the company is “constantly evaluating the books we list to ensure they comply with our content guidelines, and as an additional service to customers, at the top of relevant search results pages we link to the CDC advice on COVID and protection measures.”

Facebook said in a statement that since the start of the pandemic it had “removed over 20 million pieces of COVID misinformation, labeled more than 190 million pieces of COVID content rated by our fact-checking partners, and connected over 2 billion people with reliable information through tools like our COVID information center.”

The company added it had “removed over 3,000 accounts, pages, and groups for repeatedly violating our COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation policies and will continue to enforce our policies and offer tools and reminders for people who use our platform to get vaccinated.”

Facebook said last month it had removed dozens of vaccine misinformation “superspreaders.”

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