Coronavirus: Conspiracy theorist David Icke's Facebook page deleted as pressure mounts on ...

Doctors, MPs and counter-extremism campaigners are calling on internet ... A report by the CCDH said Icke's online audience had grown by almost ...
Coronavirus: Conspiracy theorist David Icke's Facebook page deleted as pressure mounts on ...

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Calls mount for internet giants to combat spread of ‘dangerous misinformation’ seen by millions

Conspiracy theorist has had his main page deleted amid mounting calls for social media companies to combat “dangerous misinformation”.

Icke, a former sports commentator, is a vocal backer of the conspiracy theory that technology spreads , which has prompted a wave of attacks on engineers and masts.

Doctors, MPs and counter-extremism campaigners are calling on internet giants to stop their platforms being used to “amplify Icke’s racism and misinformation about Covid-19 to millions of people”.

Sharing the full story, not just the headlines

It comes after broadcaster London Live was sanctioned for an interview with Icke, and for suggesting that denying 5G claims “suits the state narrative”.

Research by Ofcom shows that 5G conspiracy theories are thethat members of the British public encounter online.

A letter signed by Dr Christian Jessen, of Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies, Countdown’s Rachel Riley and the former culture secretary Damian Collins said: “In the face of this global pandemic that has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, it is more urgent than ever that accounts spreading harmful misinformation are prevented from doing so.”

Icke, whose other claims include that the world is run by reptiles and the royal family are lizards, has linked coronavirus to 5G, blamed Jewish cults, and claimed it cannot be transmitted through physical contact and that people with health immune systems are safe.

The misinformation, which could cause people to ignore medical advice, has been viewed at least 30 million times according to analysis by the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH).

One video, in which Icke claims the Jewish Rothschild family helped plan the coronavirus outbreak, is the 27th most viewed video about the virus on YouTube.

A report by the CCDH said Icke’s online audience had grown by almost 400,000 new followers and subscribers since March, and that both he and online platforms were profiting from advertisements.

No hype, just the advice and analysis you need

The letter, which was also signed by campaign groups including Hope not Hate and the Community Security Trust, was addressed to the heads of Facebook, YouTube, where Icke has 899,000 subscribers, Twitter, where Icke’s account has 288,000 followers, and Amazon.

“There is a moral duty on each of you to act,” it said. “Please remove David Icke from your platforms.”

It was published on Friday morning, as Facebook appears to have removed Icke’s main account, which had almost 800,000 “likes”.

But the “David Icke – Headlines” page, with a smaller following of 68,000, and London Real, an account with 586,000 followers that regularly publishes interviews with Icke, remained online.

A post on Icke’s website called Facebook “fascist”, and included a message from Facebook reading: “Your page has been unpublished for going against the Facebook Community Standards on health misinformation that could cause physical harm.”

Polling previously commissioned by Hope Not Hate, and one in eight had read or watched his claims in the past six months.

Broadcaster London Live was sanctioned by Ofcom for interviewing Icke and YouTube and Facebook removed the footage.

But the CCDH report said the “piecemeal” response allowed Icke to launch a fresh drive for new followers using the publicity, leading to a huge expansion of his audience.

Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the CCDH, said: “While people around the world make enormous sacrifices to stall this pandemic, social media firms are instead profiting from the proliferation of misinformation on their platforms.

“Misinformation puts all of our lives at risk by encouraging the public not to comply with clinical guidance.

“It’s time to stop giving valuable airtime on their platform to the most dangerous voices and instead join with the rest of us in trying to contain this lethal pandemic. The reckless endangerment of public safety by greedy social media firms must stop.”

A spokesperson for Twitter said it was removing coronavirus-related content “when it has a call to action that could potentially cause harm”.

“We will not take enforcement action on every tweet that contains incomplete or disputed information about Covid-19,” a statement added.

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