Facebook Yanks Jair Bolsonaro video claiming covid-19 vaccines cause AIDS

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RIO DE JANEIRO – Facebook and Instagram have removed from their platforms a live broadcast delivered by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in which he said that people in the UK who have received two doses of coronavirus vaccine develop AIDS faster than expected.

Facebook’s press office confirmed in an email to the Associated Press that the content was removed on Sunday night because it violated Facebook’s policy regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

“Our policy does not allow allegations that covid-19 vaccine kills or seriously injures people,” the statement said. The company did not answer AP questions as to why it took three days before the much-criticized content was removed or whether language barriers mattered, as Bolsonaro spoke Portuguese.
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The claim was among the most bizarre that the president, who got the virus last year and remains unvaccinated, has made about immunizing against the coronavirus so far. he spent months sowing doubts about vaccines, especially the one produced by the Chinese company Sinovac. He also warned Brazilians that there would be no legal turn against Pfizer for anyone suffering from side effects, and joked that could include women growing beards or people turning into alligators.

On Monday during a radio interview, Bolsonaro rebuked criticism he received for spreading false news with his claim about AIDS, saying he had only read a news article published in October last year in Brazil. In fact, the media published a loosely related story that only concerned the type of vaccine in Russia’s Sputnik shot, which is not approved for use in Brazil, according to fact checking service To facts.

Last year, Facebook and Instagram removed posts from the far-right leader who violated community covid-19 guidelines, including a video in which he claimed that anti-malaria hydroxychloroquine cured COVID-19 worldwide. Extensive testing has shown that the drug is ineffective in the treatment of covid-19. A few months later, Facebook deleted dozens of accounts, some used by Bolsonaro employees and two of his legislators’ sons, for participates in “coordinated improper conduct”.

But Monday was the first time Facebook removed one of Bolsonaro’s weekly live broadcasts that serves as a direct channel for communication with his supporters and tends to garner hundreds of thousands of views.

Bolsonaro has 14.6 million followers on Facebook and almost 19 million on Instagram. Social media platforms, including the Facebook-owned messaging service WhatsApp, were the key to his 2018 election victory. He will stand for re-election one year from now. Recently, his allies have urged supporters to join rival platforms, especially Telegram.

Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes is overseeing an investigation into the spread of alleged fake news aimed at the president’s close ally, two of his sons and – as of August – Bolsonaro himself. Last week, de Morae ordered the preventive imprisonment of a prominent Bolsonaro booster and blogger currently living in the United States, urging federal police to ask Interpol to send out a red alert.

Facebook’s actions in Brazil come amid a deluge of stories from 17 US media organizations, including the AP, based on internal company documents that show that in many cases the company failed to handle incorrect information adequately and quickly. The revelations were made to the US Securities and Exchange Commission and submitted to Congress in an edited form by the former Facebook employee who became whistleblower Frances Haugen’s legal adviser. The edited versions were obtained by a consortium of news organizations, including the AP.

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