Liberal MP Craig Kelly has been suspended from Facebook for at least a week over his promotion of unproven COVID-19 treatments and theories.
The social media giant deleted several COVID-related posts from Mr Kelly’s official MP Facebook page — which has more than 80,000 followers — including one where he compared children having to wear masks to child abuse.
The MP for the South Sydney seat of Hughes was dragged into the Prime Minister’s office early this month and told to stick to the government health advice, after he went on a podcast with anti-vaccination celebrity chef Pete Evans.
Today, Mr Kelly revealed that Facebook had suspended him from posting on the platform for seven days for repeated violations of its community standards — particularly five posts he put up early last month promoting drugs such as hydroxychloroquine.
The five posts Mr Kelly said got him banned featured unproven claims about hydroxychloroquine by professor Dolores Cahill; a profile of professor Thomas Borody in The Spectator Australia which includes the promotion of ivermectin to treat coronavirus; and claims by pathologist Roger Hodkinson that masks are “useless” for children and “paper and fabric masks are simply virtue signalling”.
Neither of the drugs are recommended by health authorities in Australia to treat COVID-19 outside of a clinical trial.
Ivermectin is the active ingredient in medicines that treat human and animal diseases caused by parasites like mites and lice.
Hydroxychloroquine is a cheap and readily available drug has been used for more than 30 years for a variety of reasons.
Mr Kelly told The Australian that the ban was a “dark day for freedom of speech” — and that
he would continue to support early treatment drug options even if they are not backed by chief medical officers.
“I hope this (Facebook) ban is temporary. They went through thousands of my posts and only found five that led to the ban,” he said. “I support the government message on vaccinations. I am advocating for treatments in concert with the vaccine.
“Three of the posts that were banned weren’t even my opinions. They were quotes from highly credentialed scientists. You might not agree with them, but the public have a right to know about these scientists’ views and people can rebut them.”
In a statement, a Facebook spokeswoman said: “We don’t allow anyone to share misinformation about COVID-19 that could lead to imminent physical harm. We have clear policies against this type of content and will remove it when we become aware of it.”
The site announced last week it was stepping up efforts to crack down on a wider range of COVID-19 misinformation, including claims such as “Wearing a face mask doesn’t help prevent the spread of COVID”, “Social distancing does nothing to reduce COVID in the community” and “COVID tests come pre-infected with the disease”.
Mr Kelly strenuously denies he is an anti-vaxxer, despite peddling a range of alternative treatments on his popular Facebook page.
“Any suggestion that I am some sort of anti-vaxxer is nothing but slander, smear and slime,’’ Mr Kelly previously told news.com.au.
“If you can’t debate, if people are getting black-banned and cancelled that is a very sad day for democracy.”
Mr Kelly’s posts caused a stir in parliament earlier this month, particularly after he sat down for an interview with celebrity chef-turned-COVID-denier Evans.
Evans introduced Mr Kelly “a beautiful and beyond courageous man” as he prepared to speak to him about alternative COVID cures.
“Just spent a great 90 minutes talking with this beautiful and courageous man,” Evans wrote on Instagram.
“Craig Kelly MP is sharing the truth over and over again and keeps moving forward without fear.
“You my friend are a hero to many Australians.”
Doctors and health experts slammed the podcast, warning that public confidence in the vaccination strategy is being undermined by anti-vaxxers and “nutters”.
“It is unacceptable that Craig Kelly is persisting in disseminating misinformation concerning #COVID-19 and to appear on this podcast with Pete Evans is very unhelpful,’’ Royal Australian College of General Practitioners President Dr Karen Price said.
“As President I urge all public figures to act responsibly.”
The National COVID-19 Evidence Institute states that ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine are both “not recommended” to treat the illness outside of clinical trials.
It said further trials of ivermectin were needed for special populations, including children and adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older people and those receiving palliative care.