During the press conference, Psaki answered a query regarding technology firms being called to exercise more aggression in policing misinformation. "We are in regular touch with these social media platforms, and those engagements typically happen through members of our senior staff. [This] is a big issue of misinformation, specifically on the pandemic," she said.
The press secretary also cited a number of actions the federal government has done to combat misinformation about the Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19). According to Psaki, the federal government "increased disinformation research and tracking" within the Office of the Surgeon General and flagged "problematic posts … that spread disinformation."
She also added that the federal government worked to connect medical experts and influences to promote "accurate information" and boost "trusted content." Psaki said: "We're helping get trusted content out there."
Surgeon General Vivek Murthy also attended the July 15 press conference. When asked if misinformation was the No. 1 reason why people are not getting vaccinated, he answered that it was only one of several reasons. "What we know from polls … is that two-thirds of people who are not vaccinated either believe common myths about the COVID-19 vaccine or think some of those myths might be true," Murthy replied.
The surgeon general called on social media companies to intensify their censorship of purported COVID-19 misinformation. "We expect more from our technology companies. We're asking them to monitor misinformation more closely … [and] consistently take action against misinformation super-spreaders on their platforms," Murthy said. He also called on news organizations to "proactively address the public's questions" without allowing health misinformation to seep through.
The July 15 press conference featuring Psaki and Murthy followed the latter's release of a 22-page announcement warning about the dangers of health misinformation. Murthy's advisory called health misinformation "a serious threat" that can "cause confusion [and] sow mistrust." He said: "Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort."
The announcement from Murthy also put forward suggestions for technology companies to fight misinformation. It called on these firms to "prioritize early detection of misinformation 'super-spreaders' and repeat offenders." Clear consequences should be imposed on defiant violators of social media policy, it added.
Murthy's document also called on technology platforms to bolster their multilingual content moderators and machine learning algorithms in other non-English languages. This was because health information in languages other than English continued to proliferate. It also noted that health misinformation on live streams, which are more difficult to moderate, ought to be addressed likewise.
Republican lawmakers did not take too kindly to what they dubbed as Psaki's remarks during the July 15 press conference. Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley described her comment as a "casual admission of collusion" between the government and Big Tech. He claimed that the Biden administration was attempting to "censor speech and evade the First Amendment."
Hawley said in an interview with Fox News on the same day: "I think it's really scary to have the federal government … compiling lists of people [and] organizations and then going to a private company [such as] Facebook and saying, 'you need to censor, you need to do something about this.'" (Related: COVID WITCH HUNT: DC AG subpoenas Facebook for data on ALL users that have spread "COVID-19 misinformation".)
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy echoed Hawley's sentiments, claiming that Big Tech and the White House conspired to control and censor Americans. He wrote in a tweet: "The Biden administration just announced they are working with Facebook to censor more Americans. Big Tech and Big Government want the same thing: To control you. As a reminder, America is a land of freedom."
Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson meanwhile argued that the federal government has turned into Big Brother under the leadership of President Joe Biden. He continued: "The censorship that results from this unholy alliance between [Big Government and Big Tech] has, and will continue to, cost lives. (Related: SUPPRESSING THE CURES: YouTube suspends Sen. Ron Johnson for uploading videos about hydroxychloroquine.)