White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Friday denied that the federal government is "spying" on certain individuals' social media accounts to look for "misinformation" about COVID-19, but also said that a person who is banned from one platform for sharing misinformation should be banned from all of them.
During Friday's press conference, Psaki said false claims that COVID-19 vaccines may contribute to infertility is an example of the kind of misinformation the government is looking to censor. Then, she listed several steps the Biden administration believes social media must take to limit the spread of misinformation.
Among these steps, Psaki said social media companies should create "robust enforcement strategies that bridge properties."
"You shouldn't be banned from one platform and not others for providing misinformation," she said.
Psaki's comments come a day after she admitted that the White House is partnering with Facebook and potentially other social media companies to identify "problematic posts" online that spread "disinformation."
Fox News reporter Peter Doocy asked how long the administration has "been spying" on people's Facebook profiles searching for misinformation.
"That was quite a loaded and inaccurate question, which I would refute," Psaki said.
"We're in a regular touch with a range of media outlets as we are in regular touch with social media platforms," she continued, adding that posts on social media are "publicly open information."
On the previous day, Psaki said that the White House is aware of 12 people who are responsible for spreading almost 65% of anti-vaccine misinformation on Facebook and other social media platforms. She told Doocy this is not a "secret list" and that these are people who "are sharing information on public platforms on Facebook, information that is traveling, is inaccurate."
"Our biggest concern here, and I frankly think it should be your biggest concern, is the number of people who are dying around the country because they're getting misinformation that is leading them to not take a vaccine," Psaki asserted.
When Doocy noted that Americans might be concerned that "big brother" is watching them on social media, Paski incredulously responded, "they're more concerned about that than people dying across the country because of a pandemic where misinformation is traveling on social media platforms?"
"That feels unlikely to me," she said.
Psaki also brushed aside concerns that the government is partnering with private companies to censor information that may have once been considered false but later turned out to be possible. Doocy brought up the example of Facebook's policy reversal on claims that COVID-19 may have been leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
"We don't take anything down, we don't block anything," she insisted. "Facebook and any other private sector company makes decisions about what information should be on their platform. Our point is that there is information that is leading to people not taking the vaccine and people are dying as a result. And we have a responsibility, as a public health matter, to raise that issue."
Psaki said this responsibility was shared by government, media, and social media platforms.
"The vaccines are safe, they are effective, if people take them they will save their life in many cases," she said in response to a question from another reporter.