Rand Paul, Marjorie Taylor Greene suspended from social media for COVID disinfo
Two lawmakers have received temporary account suspensions from YouTube and Twitter over their repeated posting of COVID-19 disinformation, yet videos from both espousing similar disinformation remain on Facebook.
On Tuesday, YouTube removed a video posted by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in which he falsely claimed that masks were not effective in preventing the spread of COVID-19. Also yesterday, Twitter suspended Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for one week after she falsely claimed that neither vaccines nor masks reduce the spread of COVID. Both masks and vaccines do work, in fact, and there’s ample evidence that wearing them slows the spread of the disease.
Both Paul and Greene are suspended from YouTube and Twitter, respectively, for one week. Paul’s suspension was handed down because YouTube had to remove another of his videos last week. Because this is his second offense, his account will be unable to publish for seven days. Greene is now on her fourth strike on Twitter, meaning that another violation could result in her being banned from the platform permanently.
Vaccines for COVID-19 have been very effective in reducing infections, even in the face of the delta variant. In a new preprint study, both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines helped prevent hospitalizations in people exposed to delta. And while they weren’t quite as effective at preventing infections by the new variant, they remain better than no vaccine at all.
Furthermore, masks, even cloth ones, have been shown to be effective at reducing the spread of COVID-19. With delta on the rise, masks remain an option for people—vaccinated or not—to reduce exposure and halt the spread of the virus. The CDC is recommending that everyone in areas of substantial to high transmission wear one.
While YouTube took down one of Paul’s videos, it has yet to remove another in which the senator questions the efficacy of masks despite the evidence that they work. That one, from August 5, is a reposted segment from Fox News in which he said: “The more [mask] mandates we got, the more of the disease we got. Now, I don’t think the mask caused the disease, but I don’t think the mask helped any.” We’ve asked YouTube for comment on why that video remains up while the other was taken down, and we’ll update this story when we receive a response.
Both Paul’s and Greene’s Facebook accounts remain active, though both include videos that rehash similar disinformation about masks. Paul, on his Facebook page, reposted the same Fox News segment that remains on his YouTube page. Greene recorded a live video on August 2, which is archived on her Facebook page, in which she said, “You’re going to be arrested if you don’t wear a mask, that guess what, doesn’t work. It’s likely a little piece of cloth covering your face, or a napkin, like a paper mask, those don’t stop COVID from spreading either.” Both videos remain on Facebook despite ample scientific evidence that masks prevent the spread of COVID-19.
We asked Facebook whether the two videos violate the company’s policies around COVID-related misinformation, and we’ll update this story if we hear back.
Yesterday, Twitter also permanently banned former San Francisco Giant’s player Aubrey Huff, also for repeated violations of the company’s COVID policy. Huff has become a minor player in far-right circles, frequently posting inflammatory content, downplaying the severity of COVID, and posting outright falsehoods about COVID vaccines.
Earlier this month, SkyNews Australia, the country’s Fox News equivalent that’s also owned by News Corp, was given a “strike” by YouTube, which meant the channel couldn’t post videos for a week. YouTube wouldn’t say which videos violated the platform’s policies, but a spokesperson told CNN that “we don’t allow content that denies the existence of Covid-19 or that encourages people to use hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin to treat or prevent the virus.”
There’s no evidence to suggest that either drug does anything to help COVID-19 patients. Ivermectin is most commonly used to treat parasitic worm infections—not viral infections—and certain doses can be dangerous. For hydroxychloroquine, the WHO halted its trials last year after results showed that COVID-19 patients received no benefit from the drug.
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