Venezuelan president’s Facebook page flagged for COVID-19 misinformation

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Facebook has frozen the account of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro after he promoted false claims about COVID-19 that violated the social media platform’s policy against misinformation, a spokesperson confirmed with The Hill. 

The Facebook spokesperson said it had taken down a video in which Maduro claimed Carvativir, an oral solution derived from thyme, is a “miracle” medication that combats the virus causing COVID-19, something doctors have repeatedly disputed. 

Facebook told The Hill that the video violated policies against “misinformation about COVID-19 that is likely to put people at risk for harm.”

“We follow guidance from the WHO (World Health Organization) that says there is currently no medication to cure the virus,” the spokesman said. 

Facebook added that due to the video, as well as Maduro’s “repeated violations of our rules,” it was “freezing the page for 30 days, during which it will be read-only.”

However, Reuters, which first reported the freeze Saturday, the Venezuelan president’s account on Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will not be impacted by the freeze. 

Last month, Maduro claimed that he was the victim of censorship by Facebook after videos of him promoting Carvativir were removed, and also claimed that he and his allies have been unfairly targeted by social media platforms. 

Facebook in December updated its policies combating coronavirus-related misinformation online, including that anyone who likes, shares or comments on a post will receive a personalized notification if Facebook removes it for violating misinformation policies. 

The social media platform has previously taken action against other world leaders who promoted false or misleading information about the virus, including Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who posted a video that Facebook later deleted claiming that the drug hydroxychloroquine was effective at treating COVID-19. 

Facebook also previously deleted multiple posts from former President Trump, including one in which he claimed COVID-19 was “less lethal” than the flu. The platform, as well as others like Twitter, have since removed Trump’s accounts following repeated posts promoting false information on the 2020 election both in the leadup to and after the deadly pro-Trump mob attack on the Capitol in January.

Despite their current policies, platforms like Facebook and Twitter continue to face pressure to more aggressively combat coronavirus misinformation, especially surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccines. 

A group of 12 state attorneys general sent a letter to Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday pressuring them to take more action, arguing that content on the social media sites are increasing vaccine hesitancy, which will “slow economic recovery and, more importantly, ultimately cause even more unnecessary deaths.”

Updated at 2:25 p.m.

Tags coronavirus misinformation COVID-19 misinformation Donald Trump Facebook Jair Bolsonaro Nicolas Maduro president trump Reuters Social media Twitter vaccine misinformation World Health Organization

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