07:50 GMT25 July 2021
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    Earlier, the White House sounded off the alarm for critics after declaring that administration officials were actively working to flag “problematic posts” emerging on Facebook about COVID-19 and the US’ vaccine campaign. The declaration came as authorities have urged more needs to be done to shutter misinformation initiatives across social media.

    White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki has gone to bat once again against Fox News’ Peter Doocy, adding onto a growing list of squabbles between the pair since the start of the Biden administration.

    The latest showdown between the press secretary and the reporter unfolded during Friday’s press briefing, just as the subject turned to COVID-19 and the continued rise of misinformation regarding the pandemic on social media, especially on Facebook.

    Recalling Psaki’s Thursday acknowledgement that the White House was actively working to flag offending posts, Doocy came in with a right hook, asking the press secretary “for how long has the administration been spying on people’s Facebook profiles looking for vaccine misinformation?”

    Appearing somewhat taken aback, Psaki went in with guns at-the-ready and instantly remarked that Doocy’s inquiry “was quite a loaded and inaccurate question which I would refute.”

    Speaking over Doocy’s repeated attempts to interrupt, Psaki shut down Doocy’s claims by reiterating that posts being reviewed are publicly available, and as such would not suggest any “spying” efforts to be undertaken. 

    “This is publicly open information - people sharing information online just as you are all reporting information on your news stations,” she remarked before addressing the reporter’s inquiry about the “12 people” on Facebook that are disseminating false COVID-19 claims.

    Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose
    © REUTERS / Stephen Lam
    Attendees walk past a Facebook logo during Facebook Inc's F8 developers conference in San Jose

    “There’s no secret list. I will tell you 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,” she added.

    Psaki had previously stated during the Thursday briefing that at least a dozen individuals were responsible for sharing about 65% of all the anti-vaccine misinformation on social media platforms

    However, when Doocy retaliated by stating that members of the public are growing increasingly concerned with the “Big Brother watching you” mentality, Psaki questioned the validity of the statement and called for him to produce data that supported the claims instead.

    And yet, that still was not the end of the Friday back-and-forth for the pair, as Doocy still had one more inquiry left in his lineup. Enter Dr. Anthony Fauci, the prominent figure who serves as a medical advisor to the president and heads the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

    Doocy took his last stab at the briefing by asking whether the Biden administration would be calling on Facebook to remove content of Fauci saying that masks were not necessary at the beginning of the pandemic. The press secretary promptly called it a day on Doocy’s question time by simply emphasizing that science and information evolves. 

    The latest row between the two did not go unnoticed, with netizens eagerly taking in the somewhat tense exchange.

    ​With Psaki expected to leave the press secretary role in 2022, it’s anyone’s guess on who may take the last laugh.


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    COVID-19, misinformation, Peter Doocy, Jen Psaki, White House, Facebook
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