Twitter Removes Misleading Coronavirus Tweets From Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro standing behind a microphone with the country's flag in the background. Photo: Gustavo Lima / Câmara dos Deputados

Twitter removed two posts from Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on March 26, after he reportedly shared videos of himself questioning social distancing and lockdown that aims to stem the spread of the novel coronavirus, and gave misleading information on the disease caused by it.

Facebook Inc. and Google’s YouTube followed the move and took down Bolsonaro’s posts in question, as well, for having harmful content.

In one of the videos, Bolsonaro promoted “hydroxychloroquine,” an anti-malaria prescription drug as an effective treatment for Covid-19, the respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus. He also encouraged people to stop practicing social distancing.

When Twitter users click on the deleted tweets, they get redirected to the company’s rules and policies page. Bolsonaro refused to comment on Twitter’s decision during a press conference shortly after the incident.

The social platform recently updated its safety rules, designating tweets that are against public health recommendations from global or local health authorities to keep individuals from possible coronavirus exposure as possible cause of “physical harm or violence.”

Although hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine are currently recommended for treatment of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in some countries, clinical trials are still needed to prove whether they are effective.

A study in China reported that chloroquine treatment of COVID-19 patients had clinical and virologic benefit versus a comparison group, and chloroquine was added as a recommended antiviral for treatment of COVID-19 in China.

However, “Hydroxychloroquine is currently under investigation in clinical trials for pre-exposure or post-exposure prophylaxis of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and treatment of patients with mild, moderate, and severe COVID-19,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) website.

Another politician who was censored by Twitter in relation to misleading coronavirus messages was Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro, after he urged people to use a “natural brew” to cure the disease in a March tweet.

Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, also had a coronavirus-related tweet deleted by Twitter in April. His account was also temporarily suspended.

Giuliani had quoted a tweet by conservative writer Charlie Kirk, who falsely asserted that “Hydroxychloroquine has been shown to have a 100% effective rate treating COVID-19.” Kirk’s tweets were deleted, as well.

YouTube and Facebook have taken similar censorship measures against misinformation on the ongoing outbreak.

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