Facebook freezes Maduro’s page for COVID misinformation

The Venezuelan president has touted Carvativir oral solution as a ‘miracle’ to combat the virus, without evidence.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's Facebook page will be read-only for 30 days, Facebook said on Saturday, accusing him of spreading coronavirus-related misinformation [File: Manaure Quintero/Reuters]

Facebook has frozen the page of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, a company spokesperson said, after the leader was accused of violating the platform’s policies about the spread of COVID-19 misinformation.

Maduro has previously touted Carvativir, an oral solution derived from thyme, as a “miracle” that can be used to combat the novel coronavirus, without medical evidence.

“We follow guidance from the WHO (World Health Organization) that says there is currently no medication to cure the virus,” a spokesman for Facebook told the Reuters news agency on Saturday.

“Due to repeated violations of our rules, we are also freezing the page for 30 days, during which it will be read-only.”

A Facebook spokesperson also told the AFP news agency that a video from Maduro’s page had been removed “for violating our policies against misinformation about COVID-19 that is likely to put people at risk for harm”.

Municipal police officers conduct checks after Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro announced the extension of the quarantine in the capital and other states, in Caracas on March 15 [Leonardo Fernandez Viloria/Reuters]

In the video, Maduro had said a few drops of Carvativir under the tongue would provide a “miracle” cure with no side effects.

Maduro previously hit out at Facebook for criticising his comments about Carvativir.

“They say that until the WHO says yes, I cannot talk about Carvativir,” he said in February. “Who is in charge in Venezuela? The owner of Facebook? Who is in charge of the world? The owner of Facebook?”

Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment from Reuters on the freeze of Maduro’s page.

Venezuela has reported more than 154,000 cases of COVID-19 and more than 1,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data, but it is seeing a recent increase in infections.

The country of about 30 million people recorded between 200 and 500 new cases a day in December and January, but that jumped to 937 new cases on March 19, and 1,161 new cases on March 20.

Medical staff work at the entrance of the emergency room for COVID-19 patients at the Trinidad Teaching Medical Center, in Caracas, on March 19, 2021 [Federico Parra/AFP]

“The occupancy of hospital beds is increasing in healthcare centres, in hospitals,” Maduro said earlier this month.

Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, also said last week that “infection is on the rise” in Venezuela.

The Venezuelan government on March 21 ordered what it called a “radical quarantine” in response to the rise in cases.

The country has authorised the use of Russian- and Chinese-made COVID vaccines.

Last week, Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said the country would not accept AstraZeneca vaccines if they are offered through the WHO’s COVAX initiative for developing countries, due to safety fears.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies