Coronavirus: David Icke kicked off Facebook

Coronavirus: David Icke kicked off Facebook

Image caption

Facebook has taken down Mr Icke’s official page

Facebook has taken down the official page of conspiracy theorist David Icke for publishing “health misinformation that could cause physical harm”.

Mr Icke has made several false claims about coronavirus, such as suggesting 5G mobile phone networks are linked to the spread of the virus.

In one video, he suggested a Jewish group was behind the virus.

Following the ban, his Twitter account posted: “Fascist Facebook deletes David Icke – the elite are TERRIFIED.”

Facebook said in a statement: “We have removed this Page for repeatedly violating our policies on harmful misinformation”.

Campaign

On Friday, campaign group the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) published an open letter calling on tech companies to ban Mr Icke’s accounts.

The letter said Amazon, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube had amplified “Icke’s racism and misinformation about Covid-19 to millions of people”.

It was co-signed by MP Damian Collins, as well as celebrity medics Dr Christian Jessen, Dr Dawn Harper and Dr Pixie McKenna.

The CCDH said videos of Mr Icke making “untrue and conspiracist claims about Covid-19” had been watched more than 30 million times online.

As examples, it cited:

  • a YouTube interview in which Mr Icke falsely claimed that a Jewish group was behind coronavirus
  • an Instagram post in which he falsely claimed 5G mobile networks left people unable to absorb oxygen
  • a YouTube video in which he falsely claimed it was not possible to catch a virus from shaking hands
  • a Twitter post in which he falsely claimed Germany was moving to “legalise rape” for Muslim men

The letter was published after Facebook had removed Mr Icke’s page.

In April, YouTube removed an interview with Mr Icke in which he said there “is a link between 5G and this health crisis”.

When asked for his reaction to reports of 5G masts being set on fire in England and Northern Ireland, he responded: “If 5G continues and reaches where they want to take it, human life as we know it is over… so people have to make a decision.”

Facebook later removed the same video saying it broke its rules on misinformation.

Later, the telecoms regulator Ofcom found local TV channel London Live in breach of standards for an interview it aired with Mr Icke about coronavirus.

Analysis

By Marianna Spring, Specialist disinformation and social media reporter

David Icke has promoted several conspiracy theories on social media throughout the pandemic – and has consequently found himself in hot water with social media sites and broadcasting regulators.

The health misinformation that he’s been spreading, including linking 5G to coronavirus, has played a role in platforms like YouTube tightening their policies about conspiracy theories.

This is a difficult area for social media sites to tackle.

Medical myths and speculation that could cause harm are easier to act on, while conspiracy theories occupy a grey area where companies risk accusations of censorship if they take action.

But the setting alight of mobile phone towers and abuse of telecommunications workers linked to this 5G coronavirus conspiracy has pushed sites like Twitter and TikTok to tighten their rules.

Facebook has also recognised that the conspiracy theories repeatedly promoted by Icke fall into their bracket of harmful misinformation. This isn’t the first time it has removed content from him – but the platform has gone one step further in taking down his page.

Governments and social media sites alike grapple with the fine balance between stemming harmful narratives and allowing freedom of expression. But experts point out that they can do both with effective moderation and collaboration.

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