Fb removes Australian celeb chef’s web page on COVID-19 conspiracies from Reuters

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Stickers with the Facebook logo are featured at Facebook Inc.’s F8 Developer Conference in San Jose

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By Byron Kaye

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ 🙂 said Thursday it removed the page of Australian celebrity chef who became conspiracy theorist Pete Evans for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, the tech giant’s latest move to monitor false content about the pandemic.

Evans, a former prime-time judge for Australian prime-time cooking shows with a large catalog of cookbooks, has become one of the country’s most famous promoters of unsubstantiated claims challenging COVID-19, calling it a “joke” to his millions of Facebook followers and “BS”.

He has also urged people not to get tested for the virus, which has killed more than 1.7 million people, or to take a vaccine. A measure that experts say is key to ending the pandemic. He announced on his Instagram page on November 20 that he was leaving Facebook, but posted there until Thursday when his page disappeared.

“We do not allow anyone to pass on misinformation about COVID-19 that could result in imminent physical harm or (over) COVID-19 vaccines that have been exposed by public health experts,” a statement from Facebook said.

“We have removed clear guidelines for this type of content and removed Chef Pete Evans’ Facebook page for repeated violations of these guidelines.”

Facebook didn’t say why it kept Evans’ page on Instagram that it owns. There Evans told his 278,000 followers on Thursday that he was “very happy to be one of the catalysts for a conversation about such an important issue (like) free speech”.

In previous Instagram posts still online, he described the vaccine as a “scam” and “poison” and appeared to discourage coronavirus testing by saying, “No testing … no cases”.

Facebook, under pressure to contain misinformation on its platform, announced earlier this month that it would remove debunked coronavirus vaccine claims from Facebook and Instagram. According to an advocacy group, in the year through August, the platform hosted around 3.8 billion views of misleading health content – which inundated the amount of legitimate information.

This week, the Israeli government announced that, at its request, Facebook had shut down four groups that were distributing texts, photos and videos with “intentionally mendacious content that is said to be misleading about coronavirus vaccines”.

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