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President Donald Trump helped propel a viral disinformation video on Monday night, sharing with his 84 million followers the false claims that no one needs to wear a mask and that hydroxychloroquine is a cure for coronavirus.
The video, featuring a group calling themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors,” was viewed tens of millions of times on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube on Monday before all three networks took action and removed it from their networks.
Twitter deleted the posts Trump had shared, saying the video was “in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy.”
Trump’s Twitter feed now has a note on it saying: “This tweet is no longer available.” Similar action was taken on tweets shared by Trump’s eldest son, Donald Jr.
Facebook and YouTube have also removed the video from their platforms, where it was first posted by right-wing news outlet Breitbart. Facebook said it was removed for “sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19.”
However, VICE News was able to find multiple versions of the video still available on all platforms on Tuesday morning.
The video shows footage from a press conference with a group of people wearing white lab coats calling themselves “America's Frontline Doctors” standing in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, DC.
The group, whose website was first registered earlier this month, is made up of some doctors as well as anti-vaxxers, lawyers, and a social media coordinator.
The group claims it wants to “empower Americans to stop living in fear” and “if Americans continue to let so-called experts and media personalities make their decisions, the great American experiment of a Constitutional Republic with Representative Democracy will cease.”
The group is spearheaded by Simone Gold, a Los Angeles-based emergency medicine specialist who has previously opposed stay-at-home orders, telling the Associated Press in May that there was "no scientific basis that the average American should be concerned” about COVID-19.
During the press conference, the doctors presented a number of false and misleading claims, including that “you don't need masks” to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that recent studies showing hydroxychloroquine is ineffective are just “fake science” sponsored by “fake pharma companies.”
One of those speaking was Stella Immanuel, a Houston GP, who claims she has successfully treated more than 350 people with coronavirus using hydroxychloroquine.
“This virus has a cure, it's called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax,” Immanuel, who is also a minister, said. “You don't need masks, there is a cure.”
But the claims fly in the face of what White House officials and public health authorities have said, as well as with scientific findings. Studies show that hydroxychloroquine has no impact on patients suffering from COVID-19 — and in some cases, those receiving the drugs had suffered negative side effects.
Indeed a month-old tweet from the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) pointing out that “hydroxychloroquine is unlikely to be effective in treating #COVID19” was trending on Twitter on Tuesday morning.
After the video was live-streamed by Breitbart it quickly became one of the top-performing posts on Facebook, racking up tens of millions of views. It was shared over 600,000 times according to data from analytics firm CrowdTangle, which is owned by Facebook.
Despite the high-profile nature of the video, Facebook took hours to remove it, highlighting once again that the company, which has over 2.5 billion users, simply cannot control the spread of disinformation on its network.
Cover: President Donald Trump wears a face mask as he participates in a tour of Bioprocess Innovation Center at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, Monday, July 27, 2020, in Morrisville, N.C. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)