Facebook on Saturday froze Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s page for 30 days for spreading misinformation about COVID-19, according to a report by Reuters. A company spokesperson told the news agency that the page promoted a remedy that wasn’t backed by evidence.
The remedy in question is Carvativir, an oral solution derived from thyme, which Maduro described as a “miracle” medication developed by 19th-century Venezuelan doctor José Gregorio Hernández. In a video, Maduro claimed that Carvativir can be used to prevent or treat coronavirus. As this goes against WHO’s guidance that there is currently no medication to cure the virus, Facebook took down the video. Following repeat violations, Facebook made Maduro’s page read-only for thirty days.
This high-profile suspension comes two months after Facebook and Twitter decided to indefinitely ban former US President Donald Trump’s account. Many have argued that private companies should not have the power to ban elected leaders. In India, BJP MP Tejaswi Surya, a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Information Technology, objected to social media platforms exercising this level of power and called for the review of Intermediary Guidelines back in January. “If they can do this to POTUS, they can do this to anyone, ” Surya said. He argued that social media platforms should not be provided safe harbour provisions while also being allowed to decide what does or doesn’t stay on their platform.
The new Information Technology (Guidelines For Intermediaries And Digital Media Ethics Code) Rules, 2021, published in February, mandates social media intermediaries to provide a reasonable explanation to users if their account or content is blocked and to give them an opportunity to seek redressal. The rules also allow the government to seek any additional information it may consider necessary to evaluate the social media platform’s decision.
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