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Federal Liberal MP Craig Kelly has accused social media companies of attempting to “purge” comments about unproven Covid-19 treatments after he received a warning from Facebook over his claims regarding the anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin.
Labor’s health spokesman, Chris Bowen, seized on the controversy, arguing the social media giant had “called out ‘Conspiracy Craig’s’ medical disinformation campaign” after the prime minister, Scott Morrison, and federal health minister, Greg Hunt, failed to do so.
The stoush between Kelly and Facebook comes as Australia approaches the rollout phase of voluntary vaccinations from mid-February, with the government’s leaders appearing unwilling to contradict misleading claims from within its ranks.
On Sunday, Hunt released market research suggesting four in five Australians are likely to be willing to get a Covid vaccine. He also revealed details of a $24m advertising campaign to boost take-up.
Migrants, Indigenous Australians and young women will be targeted after a Quantum Market Research survey of 1,000 people found women aged 30 to 39 were the most likely to hold concerns about the vaccine’s safety.
According to the Sun Herald, Quantum found that 27% of respondents had concerns about the vaccine’s safety, rising to 42% for women in their 30s. The results suggested there was “a need to dispel some specific fears held by certain cohorts of the community in relation to potential adverse side effects”.
Throughout 2020, Kelly championed the use of hydroxycholoroquine to treat Covid despite the most reputable global studies finding it was ineffective as a treatment, and could have severe and even deadly side effects if used inappropriately.
The Morrison government has shut down attempts by Labor to censure Kelly over the comments and Kelly stands by his advocacy for the drug.
In more recent posts, Kelly has spruiked the use of Ivermectin, an anti-parasitic medicine that has some effect on infected cells in-vitro in studies.
NSW Health has said there is insufficient data to supports its use to prevent or treat Covid with the evidence “mixed”. In December, it warned “the necessary concentrations for in vivo effect are unlikely to be attainable in humans”.
“While a more recent systematic review found a statistically significant effect on mortality and symptoms, the quality of evidence was very low,” it said.
Kelly revealed on Sunday he had “received a call from a representative of Facebook ‘requesting’ that I remove a post that contained comments … made by Australia’s Prof Tom Borody commenting about Ivermectin as a treatment [for] Covid – otherwise my Facebook would have ‘restrictions’ placed upon it”.
“I have since removed the post containing Prof Borody’s comments under protest,” he said. “We have entered a very dark time in human history when scientific debate and freedom of speech is being suppressed.”
He attempted to post a link to a YouTube video which has since been removed for violating its terms of service.
“Ivermectin poses a threat to the ideology of ‘we must inject everyone with the vaccine’ – perhaps that’s why there is such extraordinary suppression of free speech to shut this down,” Kelly claimed.
Kelly told Guardian Australia there had been 29 studies into Ivermectin. He accused Facebook of censoring “peer-reviewed science” on the basis the drug was not currently recommended by the World Health Organization.
Kelly rejected claims it was irresponsible to push the treatment as an alternative to Covid vaccines, arguing it had shown “superior results to the vaccines” from Pfizer and Astra Zenica which are rated 70%-95% effective.
He cited one Argentinian study that was not reviewed by NSW Health that found 58% of 400 health workers not given Ivermectin contracted the virus compared with none of the 788 given the drug. But Bowen accused Kelly of promoting “disinformation”.
In September, the Australian Communications Media Authority warned that social media content harmful to public health, including misleading claims about Covid treatments, should be taken down under new proposed codes of conduct.
On Thursday, Morrison defended his MPs’ right to “freedom of speech” in the context of misinformation about the US election result, including MP George Christensen’s claims president-elect Joe Biden benefited from “dodgy votes”.
Christensen and Kelly are both incensed that Twitter first applied warning labels and then suspended the account of US president Donald Trump over claims the election was “fraudulent” and the US capitol mob were “very nice people”.
In a sign outspoken rightwing MPs will continue to challenge social media companies, Christensen has revealed on Facebook he will push for laws to “stop social media platforms from censoring any and all lawful content created by their users”.
“Twitter, Facebook and Google/YouTube’s cultural purge is in full swing with the tech tyrants banning, silencing, fake ‘fact checking’ and censoring conservatives and others they do not agree with,” he posted on Saturday.
Guardian Australia contacted Hunt and Facebook for comment.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Liberal MP Craig Kelly attacks Facebook for warning him over unproven Covid treatment post | Australian politics