Facebook on Monday removed a viral video showing a group of doctors claiming that hydroxychloroquine cures coronavirus and disputing the need to wear face coverings, but not before it racked up millions of views and caught the attention of President Trump, who tweeted it Monday night. Twitter and YouTube then followed Facebook’s lead and deleted the video, though it’s still cropping up on the platforms.
In the Facebook video, posted by Breitbart News, a group calling themselves America’s Frontline Doctors is shown holding a press conference in front of the U.S. Supreme Court building. They say “you don’t need masks,” “this virus has a cure,” and denounce the current “spiderweb of fear” over the virus that has killed nearly 150,000 Americans.
“We don’t need to be locked down,” a doctor named Stella Immanuel says in the video. “America, there is a cure for COVID.”
According to the Daily Beast, Immanuel has other attention-grabbing medical theories, including that “gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches.” There’s more:
She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C. to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by “reptilians” and other aliens.
The cure that the doctors are pushing is hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that President Trump promoted in eight retweets Monday night and has reportedly taken himself. One retweet, from the Twitter account associated with Steve Bannon’s radio show, said Dr. Anthony Fauci has “misled” the American public by “dismissing #hydroxychloroquine.”
Fauci responded to that accusation on Tuesday, telling Good Morning America, “I have not been misleading the public under any circumstances.” He also reasserted that studies show hydroxychloroquine is “not effective” in treating coronavirus. The White House in early July pointed to one recent study that did appear to show the drug’s effectiveness in treating COVID-19, but others have noted flaws in that research. “The medical community has come to the inescapable conclusion that hydroxychloroquine is not effective at treating COVID-19 infections,” Cleveland Clinic cardiologist and clinical trialist Steven Nissen told Stat News this month.
But by the time Facebook removed the video, at around 9:30 p.m., it had been viewed at least 14 million times. “We removed it for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19,” a Facebook spokesperson tweeted.
A Twitter spokesperson explained that “tweets with the video are in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy.” And YouTube said the video violates its “Community Guidelines.” On Tuesday, Donald Trump Jr. had his Twitter account limited for “spreading misleading or potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.”
According to the website of America’s Frontline Doctors, the group was founded by Dr. Simone Gold, a pro-Trump physician who appeared on conservative talk-radio programs in May to push for states to quickly reopen. They soon did, leading to the current surge in cases around the country.