Schiff calls on Amazon, Facebook to address spread of vaccine misinformation

Schiff calls on Amazon, Facebook to address spread of vaccine misinformation
© Greg Nash

Rep. Adam SchiffAdam Bennett SchiffHouse votes to hold Bannon in contempt of Congress The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Altria - Manchin heatedly dismisses rumors of leaving Democratic Party Bannon eyed as key link between White House, Jan. 6 riot MORE (D-Calif.) is pressing Amazon and Facebook to address the spread of COVID-19 misinformation, accusing the tech giants of “directly profiting from the sensationalism of antivaccine misinformation.” 

“We cannot allow the rapid and dangerous spread of anti-vaccine marketing and misinformation to keep Americans from the valid, factual information they need to protect themselves from this virus,” Schiff wrote to the companies in letters shared by his office Thursday. 

Schiff’s letter is part of an ongoing push from congressional Democrats and the Biden administration for tech giants to accelerate efforts to remove misinformation about vaccines and the coronavirus.

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Schiff’s letter to Amazon focuses on the e-commerce giant’s algorithm and recommendation system that he said is promoting “dangerous misinformation on vaccines.” 

It follows a similar letter Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenDemocrats scramble to reach deal on taxes Ethics office warned officials about unnecessary trades Fed imposes tougher rules on financial trades amid scandal MORE (D-Mass.) sent to Amazon earlier this week. Warren pressed the company over “prominently” displaying books that spread false information about the virus and vaccines when users search for “COVID-19” and related queries. 

In response to Schiff's letter, an Amazon spokesperson said, "We are 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.”

Schiff’s letter to Facebook pressed the platform on its enforcement of policies against vaccine misinformation.

“Despite this plan, recent investigations have shown that anti-vaccine audiences have grown to 37.8 million followers on Facebook and Instagram,” he wrote, citing a report from the Center for Countering Digital Hate.

A Facebook spokesperson defended the companies’ policies and enforcement to remove vaccine misinformation.

“Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have 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 spokesperson said.

The spokesperson added that the platform has also 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.”