Social media giants remove viral video with false coronavirus claims that Trump retweeted

President Trump shared multiple versions of the video with his 84 million Twitter followers despite the dubious claims running counter to his administration's own public health experts. CNN's Hadas Gold reports.

Posted: Jul 29, 2020 4:01 AM
Updated: Jul 29, 2020 4:01 AM

A video featuring a group of doctors making false and dubious claims related to the coronavirus was removed by Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube after going viral online Monday.

The video, published by the right-wing media outlet Breitbart News, featured a group of people wearing white lab coats calling themselves "America's Frontline Doctors" staging a press conference in front of the US Supreme Court in Washington, DC.

President Trump shared multiple versions of the video with his 84 million Twitter followers Monday night despite the dubious claims running counter to his administration's own public health experts. Spokespersons for the White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

During the press conference, a speaker who identifies herself as a doctor makes a number of dubious claims, including that "you don't need masks" to prevent spread of the coronavirus, and that recent studies showing hydroxychloroquine is ineffective for the treatment of Covid-19 are "fake science" sponsored by "fake pharma companies."

"This virus has a cure, it's called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax," the woman claims. "You don't need masks, there is a cure."

The claims run contrary to multiple studies on the anti-malarial drug and advice from public health officials to prevent spread of the virus.

A study found that neither hydroxychloroquine alone nor hydroxychloroquine plus azithromycin appeared to affect the condition of patients at the 15-day mark. Additionally, unusual heart rhythms and elevated liver-enzyme levels were more frequent in patients receiving hydroxychloroquine alone or with azithromycin, according to the study.

The video quickly went viral on Facebook, becoming one of the top performing posts on the platform with more than 14 million views before it was taken down Monday night for promoting misinformation. It was shared nearly 600,000 times, according to Crowdtangle, a data-analytics firm owned by Facebook.

"We've removed this video for sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19," a Facebook spokesperson told CNN, adding that the platform is "showing messages in News Feed to people who have reacted to, commented on or shared harmful COVID-19-related misinformation that we have removed, connecting them to myths debunked by the WHO."

The Facebook spokesperson later acknowledged on Tuesday afternoon that it took "several hours" for the company to enforce its standards and remove the video. The spokesperson said Facebook will conduct "a review to understand why this took longer than it should have."

Twitter worked to scrub the video late Monday night after Trump shared versions of the video that amassed hundreds of thousands of views.

"We're taking action in line with our Covid misinfo policy," a Twitter spokesperson told CNN.

Twitter took action against the videos that Trump retweeted. By early Tuesday morning the videos were no longer able to be viewed on his account. Twitter also took action on a version of the video posted by Donald Trump Jr. and others shared by Breitbart News.

The video was also removed by YouTube, where it had been viewed more than 40,000 times. Users attempting to access the video late Monday were greeted with a message that said it had been removed for "violating YouTube's Community Guidelines."

A Breitbart spokesperson did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

According to the website for America's Frontline Doctors, the group is led by Dr. Simone Gold, a Los Angeles-based emergency medicine specialist who has previously been featured on Fox News for her views that stay-at-home orders are harmful. Gold told the Associated Press in May she wanted to speak out against stay-home orders because there was "no scientific basis that the average American should be concerned" about Covid-19.

America's Frontline Doctors could not be reached for comment late Monday.

One woman featured in the video, identified as Dr. Stella Immanuel, is a Houston-based physician and founder of the Fire Power Ministries church. On her website and in sermons posted on YouTube, Immanuel has made strange medical claims, including that sex with "tormenting spirits" are is responsible for gynecological problems, miscarriages, and impotence.

"Many women," she claimed in a sermon, "suffer from astral sex regularly. Astral sex is the ability to project one's spirit man into the victim's body and have intercourse with it."

According to the Texas Medical Board database, Immanuel received her medical degree from a university in Nigeria in 1990 and practices medicine at a clinic in Houston. On her Facebook page, Immanuel says she was born in Cameroon and describes herself as "God's battle axe and weapon of war."

Immanuel did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment. Her previous remarks were first reported Tuesday by The Daily Beast.

After the video featuring Immanuel's false claims about coronavirus cures was removed from Twitter, the platform restricted Donald Trump Jr.'s ability to tweet over his posting of a copy of the video, calling it a "must watch," a Twitter spokesperson told CNN.

Immanuel also responded, tweeting that Facebook's computers would "start crashing" if it didn't restore video clips of her speaking.

"Hello Facebook put back my profile page and videos up or your computers with start crashing till you do," she tweeted. "You are not bigger that God. I promise you. If my page is not back up face book will be down in Jesus name."

As of Monday, the virus has caused nearly 150,000 US deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, and is on track to become a leading cause of death in the country.f

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 319115

Reported Deaths: 7353
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto22246264
Hinds20612421
Harrison18342316
Rankin13855282
Jackson13666248
Madison10213224
Lee10050176
Jones8452167
Forrest7810153
Lauderdale7253242
Lowndes6488149
Lamar632288
Lafayette6295120
Washington5412136
Bolivar4833133
Panola4659110
Oktibbeha465898
Pearl River4591146
Marshall4571105
Warren4436121
Pontotoc424573
Union415576
Monroe4154135
Neshoba4059179
Lincoln4007111
Hancock385187
Leflore3514125
Tate342386
Sunflower339391
Pike3366110
Alcorn323272
Scott319274
Yazoo313971
Adams304785
Itawamba304777
Copiah299666
Coahoma298283
Simpson297889
Tippah291168
Prentiss283361
Leake271674
Marion271280
Covington266683
Wayne264442
Grenada264087
George251851
Newton248563
Tishomingo230867
Winston229881
Jasper222048
Attala214973
Chickasaw210459
Holmes190374
Clay187454
Stone187233
Tallahatchie179941
Clarke178980
Calhoun173732
Yalobusha167740
Smith164034
Walthall135147
Greene131633
Lawrence131024
Montgomery128643
Noxubee127934
Perry126638
Amite125942
Carroll122330
Webster115032
Tunica107927
Jefferson Davis107633
Claiborne102930
Benton102225
Humphreys97533
Kemper96628
Franklin84923
Quitman81816
Choctaw79018
Wilkinson69332
Jefferson66228
Sharkey50817
Issaquena1696
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 547323

Reported Deaths: 11266
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson808021563
Mobile41925826
Madison35600522
Tuscaloosa26136458
Shelby25554254
Montgomery25067610
Baldwin21774313
Lee16234175
Calhoun14692325
Morgan14614285
Etowah14132361
Marshall12443230
Houston10748287
Elmore10295212
Limestone10180157
St. Clair10146250
Cullman9921200
Lauderdale9582248
DeKalb8955189
Talladega8441184
Walker7318279
Autauga7215113
Blount6925139
Jackson6900113
Colbert6394139
Coffee5616126
Dale4928114
Russell454441
Chilton4461116
Franklin430683
Covington4263122
Tallapoosa4117154
Escambia400280
Chambers3715123
Dallas3604156
Clarke352861
Marion3231106
Pike313978
Lawrence3121100
Winston283372
Bibb267364
Geneva256981
Marengo250565
Pickens236562
Barbour234559
Hale226578
Butler223371
Fayette217162
Henry193843
Cherokee187245
Randolph186844
Monroe179141
Washington170339
Macon163051
Clay159559
Crenshaw155057
Cleburne152543
Lamar145837
Lowndes141953
Wilcox127030
Bullock124242
Conecuh112930
Coosa111129
Perry108726
Sumter105732
Greene93434
Choctaw61725
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