Exclusive: Facebook freezes the page of the president of Venezuela Maduro due to disinformation of COVID-19


CARACAS (Reuters) – Facebook froze Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s page for violating policies against spreading misinformation about COVID-19 by promoting a remedy that it claims, without evidence, can cure the disease, a spokesman for the company.

Maduro in January described Carvativir, an oral solution derived from thyme, as a “miracle” drug that neutralizes the coronavirus without side effects, a claim that doctors say is not supported by science.

Facebook has removed a video in which Maduro promotes the drug because it violates a policy against false claims “that something can guarantee prevention of contracting COVID-19 or can guarantee recovery from COVID-19.”

“We follow the guidance of the WHO (World Health Organization) which says that there are currently no drugs to cure the virus,” the spokesman told Reuters. “Due to repeated violations of our rules, we will also freeze the page for 30 days, during which it will be read-only.”

Maduro in the video says that Carvativir, which he calls “miracle drops” from the 19th century Venezuelan doctor José Gregorio Hernández, who has been beatified by the Roman Catholic Church, can be used preventively and therapeutically against the coronavirus.

Administrators of the page were notified of the policy violation, the Facebook spokesperson said.

Maduro’s account on the social media photo-sharing platform Instagram, which is owned by Facebook, will not be affected.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Maduro said in February that Facebook “censored” videos showing Carvativir. In the past, he has said that he and his allies have been treated unfairly by social media companies, including what he calls arbitrary account suspension.

Maduro frequently uses social media, including Facebook and Twitter, and has occasionally broadcast speeches via Facebook Live.

Venezuela’s official figures as of Friday showed 154,905 coronavirus cases and 1,543 deaths, although opposition critics say the true number is likely higher due to limited testing.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; additional reporting by Deisy Buitrago; Edited by Leslie Adler

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