Sixty Facebook groups focused on ivermectin discussion

Sixty Facebook groups focused on ivermectin discussion
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At least 60 public and private Facebook groups were focused on discussing ivermectin to treat COVID-19, according to left-leaning watchdog Media Matters for America.

Of the groups, 25 were shut down after Media Matters flagged them to Facebook, the group said in a Tuesday email accompanying the release of their report. The remaining groups, however, had nearly 70,000 members.

The analysis was first reported by The New York Times on Tuesday.

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Asked about the ivermectin pages, Facebook spokesperson Aaron Simpson said the platform removes content that “attempts to buy, sell, or donate for Ivermectin.”

“We also enforce against any account or group that violates our COVID-19 and vaccine policies, including claims that Ivermectin is a guaranteed cure or guaranteed prevention, and we don’t allow ads promoting Ivermectin as a treatment for COVID-19,” Simpson said. “When people search for Ivermectin on Facebook, the results point them to our COVID Information Center, which includes reliable information on vaccines and how to get vaccinated.”

The Food and Drug Administration has warned that ivermectin can be toxic to humans because animal drugs are often highly concentrated for use in larger animals. Last week, New Mexico reported two deaths linked to misuse of ivermectin.

In the Facebook groups, people are discussing how to acquire and use the drug, Media Matters said in late August. In some instances, the group’s administrators inform members on how to evade content moderation policies.

Facebook says it has been aggressive on tamping down coronavirus misinforming during the pandemic, though it has still faced criticism for what remains. 

In a report released Tuesday, Media Matters said that anti-mask and anti-vaccine groups were exploiting Facebook’s content policies to evade being removed from the platform.

“Researchers and journalists are essentially doing Facebook’s work for them — identifying and reporting on these groups that promote ivermectin and other harmful health misinformation,” Kayla Gogarty, Media Matters’ associate research director, said in a statement to The Hill.

“By not taking action against these groups, including when it is brought to its attention, Facebook is allowing users that are not medical professionals to give each other harmful health advice, even as health agencies have had to issue warnings and poison control centers have experienced a surge in ivermectin overdose calls,” Gogarty said. 

—Updated at 1:19 p.m.