Facebook bans Australian MP Craig Kelly for COVID misinformation

Facebook bans Australian MP Craig Kelly for COVID misinformation
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Facebook has permanently banned the official page of Australian MP Craig Kelly for sharing “misinformation about COVID-19.”

Formerly a member of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's Liberal Party, Kelly became an independent after getting into a dispute with the prime minister and health experts over the content he had been posting on his Facebook page.

In February, Facebook temporarily suspended Kelly's page after a series of posts touting the benefits of hydroxychloroquine as a method of treating COVID-19.

Now, the social media giant has taken further action and permanently removed the MP's page. 

A Facebook spokesperson told Australian state broadcaster ABC that the company doesn't “allow anyone, including elected officials, to share misinformation about COVID-19 that could lead to imminent physical harm or COVID-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts.”

“We have clear policies against this type of content and have removed Mr. Kelly's Facebook Page for repeated violations of this policy,” the spokesperson said.

Responding to the ban, Kelly criticized the action as “censorship,” adding that his page was the “most popular, highly used” in the country.

The Hughes, New South Wales MP denied that he was spreading misinformation, but rather sharing a difference of opinion.

“The idea that they are some purveyors of all truth is just absolutely outrageous,” Kelly said.

After his suspension in February, Kelly created a backup page on the platform, which as of yet has not been removed. Kelly also maintains a page on Instagram, another platform controlled by Facebook, although the company treats those accounts as separate entities and no action has been taken against Kelly there.

Speaking to The Guardian Australia, Kelly said that Facebook has refused to explain what they label misinformation, and said that he stands “100 per cent by everything” he's posted.

“It's not my random thoughts, it's backed up by scientific evidence.”

Kelly conceded that many of the doctors and academics he refers to have an opinion that diverges from the mainstream, but stressed that he wants to “live in a democracy where we can hear and debate those opinions.”

The independent MP is currently crafting a private member's bill to present to the Australian Parliament that would require social media platforms to present written notice before deleting a user's account, and that could feature fines of up to $100,000 a day for deplatforming individuals for political speech.

Relating his Facebook ban to his new bill, Kelly claimed that a foreign-owned company had restricted him from being able to promote his legislative efforts, describing it as “extinguishing” his ability to use his Facebook page to call for more regulation of the company.

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