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Mark Zuckerberg insists COVID vaccine hesitancy is US-specific issue caused by political leaders


Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that social media is not to blame for lagging COVID-19 vaccination rates in the US, insisting that ‘political leaders’ and the media are responsible.  

In an interview with CBS This Morning host Gayle King on Thursday, Zuckerberg rejected the notion that Facebook plays a significant role in discouraging vaccine uptake.

It follows a war of words between Facebook and the White House, with President Joe Biden saying last month that the company is ‘killing people’ with misinformation, drawing a furious response from Facebook execs. 

‘If you look around the world in different countries – different countries are doing better or worse on getting their citizens vaccinated. And the US has a specific issue on this,’ Zuckerberg argued.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said that social media is not to blame for lagging COVID-19 vaccination rates in the US, insisting that ‘political leaders’ and the media are responsible

The US lags behind a number of nations in COVID vaccinations, with 51% fully vaccinated

The US lags behind a number of nations in COVID vaccinations, with 51% fully vaccinated

About 51 percent of the US population is fully vaccinated against COVID, lagging behind the UK at 60 percent, Canada at 64 percent, and Denmark at 67 percent, according to data gathered by the University of Oxford. 

‘People use Facebook and social media all across the world so if this was primarily a question about social media I think you would see that being the effect in all the countries that use it,’ said Zuckerberg. 

‘I think there’s something unique in our ecosystem here, whether it’s some of the political leaders or some of the media figures which I think is different than what we’re seeing across a lot of Europe or across a lot of other countries that are leading to higher levels of this. So I don’t think pinning this on social media primarily is accurate,’ he added.

His interview with King came as he promoted Facebook’s latest innovation – a virtual reality remote working app. 

Facebook launched a test of the new app, where users of the company’s Oculus Quest 2 headsets can hold meetings as avatar versions of themselves. 

Zuckerberg unveiled the new technology in a demonstration with King, calling it an early step toward building his futuristic ‘metaverse’.

‘I think of the metaverse as the next generation of the internet,’ Zuckerberg said, using the app to speak with King remotely, their avatars seated next to each other in a virtual conference room. 

‘So you can kind of think about it as, instead of being an internet that we look at, right, on our mobile phones or our computer screens, it’s an internet that we are a part of, or that we can be inside of.’  

Zuckerberg also unveiled new VR remote working technology in a demonstration with King, calling it an early step toward building his futuristic 'metaverse'

Zuckerberg also unveiled new VR remote working technology in a demonstration with King, calling it an early step toward building his futuristic ‘metaverse’

King reacted with glee to her first experience with the technology, calling it 'pretty amazing'

King reacted with glee to her first experience with the technology, calling it ‘pretty amazing’

'I think of the metaverse as the next generation of the internet,' Zuckerberg said, using the app to speak with King remotely

‘I think of the metaverse as the next generation of the internet,’ Zuckerberg said, using the app to speak with King remotely

King reacted with glee to her first experience with the new technology, calling it ‘pretty amazing’. 

The beta test of Facebook’s app, dubbed Horizon Workrooms, comes as many companies continue to work from home after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down physical workspaces and as a new variant is sweeping across the globe.

‘In five years, people are going to be able to live where they want and work where they want, but get together with a sense of presence,’ Zuckerberg said. 

The app, free through the Quest 2 headsets which cost about $300, allows up to 16 people together in VR and up to 50 total including video conference participants. 

The technology allows users to synch their computers and keyboards in order to see and use them in virtual reality, and includes a virtual whiteboard that collaborators can use together in VR. 

‘It basically gives you the opportunity to, you know, sit around a table with people and work, and brainstorm and whiteboard ideas,’ Zuckerberg told King. 

‘For people who can’t be there through virtual reality, they could just video conference in. So you can include everyone. But it’s this pretty amazing experience where, you know, you feel like you’re really right there with your colleagues,’ he said. 

The beta test of Facebook's app, dubbed Horizon Workrooms, comes as many companies continue to work from home after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down physical workspaces

The beta test of Facebook’s app, dubbed Horizon Workrooms, comes as many companies continue to work from home after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down physical workspaces

Facebook said it would not use people's work conversations and materials in Workrooms to target ads on Facebook

Facebook said it would not use people’s work conversations and materials in Workrooms to target ads on Facebook

It also said users must follow its VR community standards, which include bans on bullying, sexual gestures or inappropriate virtual touching, and supporting hateful ideologies

It also said users must follow its VR community standards, which include bans on bullying, sexual gestures or inappropriate virtual touching, and supporting hateful ideologies

Facebook said it would not use people’s work conversations and materials in Workrooms to target ads on Facebook. 

It also said users must follow its VR community standards, which include bans on bullying, sexual gestures or inappropriate virtual touching, and supporting hateful ideologies. Rule-breaking behavior can be reported to Oculus. 

The world’s largest social network has invested heavily in virtual and augmented reality, developing hardware such as its Oculus VR headsets, working on AR glasses and wristband technologies and buying a bevy of VR gaming studios, including BigBox VR.

Gaining dominance in this space, which Facebook bets will be the next big computing platform, will allow it to be less reliant in the future on other hardware makers, such as Apple, the company has said.

Facebook’s vice president of its Reality Labs group, Andrew ‘Boz’ Bosworth, said the new Workrooms app gives ‘a good sense’ of how the company envisions elements of the metaverse.

‘This is kind of one of those foundational steps in that direction,’ Bosworth told reporters during a VR news conference.

In its first full VR news briefing, the company showed how Workrooms users can design avatar versions of themselves with detailed customization

In its first full VR news briefing, the company showed how Workrooms users can design avatar versions of themselves with detailed customization

The technology allows users to synch their computers and keyboards in order to see and use them in virtual reality

The technology allows users to synch their computers and keyboards in order to see and use them in virtual reality

The term ‘metaverse,’ coined in the 1992 dystopian novel ‘Snow Crash,’ is used to describe immersive, shared spaces accessed across different platforms where the physical and digital converge. Zuckerberg has described it as an ’embodied internet.’

It has been referenced in several recent earnings calls by tech CEOs including Zuckerberg, Microsoft’s Satya Nadella, gaming company Roblox Corp’s David Baszucki and Match Group’s Shar Dubey, who have talked about how their companies could shape aspects of this futuristic realm.

In July, Facebook said it was creating a product team to work on the metaverse, which would be part of its AR and VR group Facebook Reality Labs.

In its first full VR news briefing, the company showed how Workrooms users can design avatar versions of themselves to meet in virtual reality conference rooms and collaborate on shared whiteboards or documents, still interacting with their own physical desk and computer keyboard.  

Facebook recently halted sales of its Oculus Quest 2 headsets and recalled the foam face-liners due to reports of skin irritation in cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The recall notice said it affected about 4 million units in the United States, providing an estimate of Quest 2 headset sales which have not yet been officially announced by the company. 

Facebook reported non-advertising revenue, which comes from the AR and VR part of the business as well as e-commerce, of $497 million in the second quarter of 2021.

King also pressed Zuckerberg on how many people had viewed pandemic misinformation on Facebook, a topic the White House has slammed the company over

King also pressed Zuckerberg on how many people had viewed pandemic misinformation on Facebook, a topic the White House has slammed the company over

Earlier in the interview, King pressed Zuckerberg on how many people had viewed pandemic misinformation on Facebook.

‘One of the things that the White House has asked for repeatedly and still hasn’t gotten a number, is how many people have viewed and shared, do you have that number?’ asked King.

‘Well, if we see harmful misinformation on the platform then we take it down. It’s against our policy. So the 18 million number that I shared is the number, of pieces of content that we’ve seen on the platform that we’ve taken down,’ Zuckerberg responded.

He continued: ‘Now do we catch everything? Of course there are mistakes that we make or areas where we need to improve, but that’s the best number that we have in terms of what we’ve seen and what our systems have been able to detect.’

King pressed him further: ‘Those are two separate issues. You’ve taken down 18 million pieces of misinformation, but how many people have viewed the misinformation?’

‘The White House has said at one point that Facebook is killing people. That was very bold and very blunt and provocative, and I think at one point the president walked that back,’ she added.

‘I understand what you’re saying,’ replied Zuckerberg. ‘The number that I have off the top of my head that I can share is the number of pieces of misinformation that we’ve taken action against.’

Zuckerberg also insisted that millions have used Facebook’s vaccine finder to locate appoints for shots, and that hundreds of millions had visited the site’s coronavirus hub to get authoritative misinformation. 



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