Facebook Suspends Australian MP for a Week Over Hydroxychloroquine Posts

February 17, 2021 Updated: February 19, 2021

Facebook has suspended the account of Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) Craig Kelly for a week after he allegedly violated their “misinformation and harm policy” by sharing information on hydroxychloroquine.

The MP revealed yesterday that the social media giant deleted five of his posts, which featured medical experts’ supports of alternative CCP virus treatments, hydroxychloroquine, and ivermectin. Facebook also removed a post in which Kelly shared an opinion from a pathologist that “paper and fabric masks are simply virtue signalling.”

The outspoken member for Hughes has faced strong criticism from media and political opponents for sharing information on the anti-malarial drug.

He told The Australian that the ban was a “dark day for freedom of speech,” but added that it would not stop him from voicing support of early treatment drug options.

“I hope this (Facebook) ban is temporary. They went through thousands of my posts and only found five that led to the ban,” Kelly 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,” he said.

A pharmacist displaying a box of hydroxychloroquine
A pharmacist displaying a box of hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) tablets in his store in Hyderabad on April 28, 2020. (Noah Seelam/AFP via Getty Images)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison privately reprimanded Kelly after he clashed with Labor MP Tanya Plibersek last week over alternative vaccine treatments.

Briefly after the meeting, Kelly issued a statement saying he “agreed to support” the government’s $6 billion vaccination campaign.

Kelly told The Guardian yesterday that “whether [the views are] right or wrong is a matter of debate, but their views should be debated.”

“I have great concerns about censorship—community standards should not stop us from listening to opinions of highly experienced medical professionals,” he said.

According to The Australian, a Facebook spokesman said the tech giant would crack down on any COVID information that deemed false.

“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,” she said.

In a blog post on Feb. 8, the company said they would remove “false claims” about COVID-19 and vaccines, as well as censor groups, pages, and accounts on Facebook and Instagram that shared them.

Over 30 claims were listed in Facebook’s new COVID-19 and Vaccine policy as a violation of the community standards, including claims that COVID-19 was man-made in a lab; that vaccines are not effective, toxic, dangerous, or cause autism; or that “something other than a COVID-19 vaccine can vaccinate you against COVID-19.”

“That’s why we work with over 60 fact-checking organizations that review and rate content in more than 50 languages around the world,” the social media giant stated.

Epoch Times Photo
A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. (Dado Ruvic/Illustration)

According to a report by The Guardian, Labor Party frontbencher Mark Butler wrote to Facebook that he backed their decision to continue monitoring Kelly’s social content.

“The Australian government is currently spending $24 million on an advertising campaign for the vaccine rollout, and Craig Kelly’s Facebook posts are getting four times more engagement than the Australian Department of Health,” Butler said.

Banning the outspoken MP is one latest efforts by a tech giant to control content on its platform.

Australian tech entrepreneur and “Shark Tank” TV series star Steve Baxter condemned Big Tech companies for cancelling dissenting views, including banning social media app Parler and U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter account. He warned that censorship was a slippery slope.

“Every last part of it feels wrong,” he told The Epoch Times. “We’ve been saying it for a while, this is an encroaching sort of tyranny. First, in liberal academics, then into people’s lives, and now with COVID-19 restrictions …”

“The next big controversy is when other supposed ‘safe forms’ of media start getting cancelled. The people who are celebrating now will realise how bad the mob is,” he said. “The mob always eats itself. It goes without a shadow of a doubt.”

“What’s the cost of censorship, compared to the cost of things that you don’t want to be said? The cost of censorship is always worse than the annoying words you’re free to ignore,” Baxter said.

Daniel Y. Teng contributed to this article.