Facebook, Twitter and YouTube pull ‘false’ coronavirus video after it goes viral

Tech

U.S. President Donald Trump wears a protective face mask during a tour of the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’ Innovation Center, a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant where components for a potential coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate are being developed, in Morrrisville, North Carolina, U.S., July 27, 2020.

Carlos Barria | Reuters

A controversial video containing misleading information on the coronavirus was allowed to clock up millions of views before it was pulled from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. 

The video was created by right-wing media outlet Breitbart. It depicts a group of people dressed in white lab coats — who call themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors” — staging a press conference outside the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Those in the video claim that the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine is “a cure for Covid” and “you don’t need a mask” to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

“This virus has a cure, it’s called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax,” one of the women in the video claims. “You don’t need masks, there is a cure.” 

The claims are in contrast to the advice from public health officials to prevent the spread of the virus.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced that it had ended the emergency use authorization of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, saying the drugs were “unlikely to be effective in treating Covid-19.”

Masks are also widely accepted to be a reliable safety measure that helps to reduce the spread of the virus.

By late Monday night, the video had racked up 20 million views on Facebook, according to NBC News reporter Brandy Zadrozny.

A Facebook spokesperson said: ”We’ve removed this video for sharing false information about cures and treatments for Covid-19.”

Facebook has been battling coronavirus misinformation on its platform since January but there are now several instances of disinformation going viral before they’re removed. 

President Donald Trump shared several versions of the video with his 84 million Twitter followers before they were taken down, even though his own administration has recommended people wear masks. 

A Twitter spokesperson said tweets containing the video violate its Covid-19 misinformation policy and that it is taking action. 

YouTube said the video met the bar for removal because it claimed a guaranteed cure of Covid-19. From the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had clear policies against Covid-19 misinformation and are committed to continue providing timely and helpful information at this critical time,” a spokesperson said. 

Although the tech firms said they had removed the video, there were still clips of it circulating on WhatsApp and other social media platforms on Tuesday morning. 

America’s Frontline Doctors started a website on July 15. The group is comprised of some doctors and some who are part of the anti-vaccination movement. 

Dr. Simone Gold, the group’s leader, is reportedly a Trump supporter who has advocated the use of hydroxychloroquine on Conservative talk radio and podcasts. Gold has also spoken out against shelter-in-place measures and other measures designed to slow the spread of Covid-19 because there was “no scientific basis that the average American should be concerned” about when it comes to the coronavirus. 

“Americans are riveted and captured by fear at the moment,” she says in the video. “We are not held down by the virus as much as we’re held down by the spider web of fear. That spider web is all around us and it’s constricting us, and it’s draining the lifeblood of the American people, American society and American economy. This does not make sense.”

Breitbart did not immediately respond to CNBC when asked about the video being removed by Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

This is the latest incident of coronavirus misinformation spreading on social media platforms like wildfire. 

The platforms are also failing to remove racist, homophobic and hate speech content from their platforms as quickly as some have demanded. 

Twitter is currently facing a 48-hour “walkout” over its handling of anti-Semitic tweets posted from the account of British rap star Wiley.

Several posts from Wiley’s account were deleted by the San Francisco-headquartered social media firm for violating Twitter’s ”hateful conduct policy” but others have been left up.

Some of those that were deleted remained on the platform for nearly 12 hours, resulting in a public backlash against the artist and Twitter. 

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