(This Feb. 19 story corrects the group’s name at paragraph 11 to Center to Counter Digital Hate rather than Center to Counter Digital Health) By Nandita Bose WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The White House has been communicating with companies from social media including Facebook (NASDAQ :), Twitter and Alphabet (NASDAQ 🙂 Inc’s Google about cracking down on COVID misinformation and getting their help to prevent it from going viral, a senior administration official said. President Joe Biden, who has been quick to curb the pandemic since taking office, has made vaccinating Americans one of his top priorities, calling the measure “a wartime effort.” But addressing the public’s fear of taking the vaccine has become a major impediment to administration. Since the start of the pandemic, calls from lawmakers asking companies to address the spread of COVID misinformation on their platforms have increased. The White House‘s direct engagement with business to mitigate the challenge has not been previously reported. Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain, has previously said the administration will try to work with Silicon Valley on the issue. “The misinformation causing doubts about vaccines will be a huge obstacle for everyone to get vaccinated and there are no bigger players in that than social media platforms,” said the source, who has direct knowledge of the White House efforts. “We are talking to them … so they understand the importance of misinformation and misinformation and how they can get rid of it quickly.” The Biden White House is especially trying to make sure that such material “does not start trending on such platforms and becomes a broader movement,” the source said. The source cited the example of the anti-vaccine protests at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles in early February, and said the White House wants to prevent events like that from happening again. The protest, organized on Facebook through a page promoting discredited claims about the coronavirus pandemic, masks and immunizations, briefly blocked public access to the stadium, one of the country’s largest vaccination sites, where health authorities are administering more than 8,000 vaccines a year. day. The event illustrated the extent to which social media platforms have become a critical organizing tool for movements like the anti-vaccine campaign, which spread misinformation and misinformation. A growing number of anti-vaccine activists, emboldened by their growing number of followers on social media, have helped the movement gain traction in the United States. A report from the Center for the Fight Against Digital Hate in July 2020 found that social media accounts held by anti-vaxxers have grown their following by at least 7.8 million people since 2019, but gaps remain in their enforcement efforts. On Thursday, Senator Richard Blumenthal criticized the platforms in a tweet for posting advertisements that he said fund and promote “dangerous conspiracy theories, COVID-19 misinformation and malicious foreign propaganda.” A Facebook spokeswoman said the company reached out to the White House to offer “whatever help we can provide” and recently announced a new policy to remove COVID and vaccine misinformation alongside pages, groups and accounts repeatedly spreading such material. . A Twitter spokesperson said the company is “in regular communication with the White House on a number of critical issues, including misinformation about COVID-19.” Alphabet Inc’s Google did not comment on the White House engagement, instead pointing to a company blog and how it stops misinformation. The source said businesses “were receptive” while engaging with the White House. “But it is too early to say whether or not it translates into a decrease in the spread of misinformation.” There will be more details on how the White House is engaging with social media companies on this issue in the “next ten days,” the source added.