Louisiana AG Accuses Facebook of 'Orwellian Benevolence' Over 'Censorship' of Breitbart Hydroxychloroquine Video

The Louisiana attorney general has complained to Facebook about its removal of a viral video filled with lies about COVID-19 treatments.

In a letter to CEO Mark Zuckerberg dated August 3, Republican AG Jeff Landry accused the social media platform of "showing political bias" by deleting a clip that spread last month after being hosted by the far-right website Breitbart News.

"It seems you and your team at Facebook choose to censor or misuse your algorithms to downplay voices on one side of issues while failing to do so on the other. This now appears to be true when it comes to treatments for COVID-19," he wrote.

"I am asking that you respect the agency and intelligence of the American people to make their own decisions, free from your Orwellian benevolence," he added.

The footage—which was taken during an event organized by an unknown group dubbed "America's Frontline Doctors"—contained false and potentially dangerous claims about the viral disease that has killed more than 155,000 people in America.

The group, claiming to consist of physicians who had treated COVID-19 patients, met at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. on July 27.

"This virus has a cure. It is called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax. I know you people want to talk about a mask... you don't need a mask. There is a cure," a woman later identified as Houston physician Dr. Stella Immanuel falsely asserted.

Evidence does not suggest that this combination of pharmaceuticals could effectively treat the novel coronavirus, as the Associated Press notes. Clinical studies on the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine suggest it does not reduce symptoms or death rates.

Alongside social distancing measures and increased personal hygiene, experts from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stress that face coverings can help to limit the spread of the disease.

Footage from the event was first hosted by Breitbart News, and pushed to Facebook and Twitter. It attracted millions of views before being pulled, helped after being shared by President Donald Trump.

Hydroxychloroquine has been repeatedly touted by Trump as a potential COVID-19 treatment, despite the lack of scientific evidence.

Landry took issue with Facebook's takedown, accusing it of making a choice to limit the voices of those heard in the clip. He criticized the platforms's use of information from the WHO, which he claimed is "publicly discredited and politically motivated."

Facebook says it removes "harmful content" about the novel coronavirus and redirects users who encounter posts about COVID-19 to WHO advice via its Information Center. Last month, the platform started reminding its users to wear face coverings.

Landry, who said he wasn't advocating for statements made during the video, said Facebook is on the "wrong side" of history, writing: "History will record that thousands of Americans died because of political correctness and scientific bias."

"People deserve to hear all voices and stories so they can evaluate information and make decisions for themselves," he also wrote. "Unfortunately, while Facebook is known for connecting people and ideas, it seems to now be blinding users into believing this pandemic cannot be defeated without a single wonder drug and a vaccine.

"You can set aside hysteria, fear and politics. You can give access to all the information available on this pandemic. You can allow users to make decisions for themselves."

According to Johns Hopkins University data, the U.S. has the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, with more than 4.7 million people infected.

Facebook has been asked for comment about the letter sent by the Louisiana attorney general, which was published by Breitbart News yesterday.

A spokesperson for the social network previously confirmed the video was removed for making "false claims about cures and prevention methods for COVID-19."

"People who reacted to, commented on, or shared this video, will see messages directing them to authoritative information about the virus. It took us several hours to enforce against the video and we're doing a review to understand why this took longer than it should have," the official statement continued at the time.

"April to June we removed more than seven million pieces of content on Facebook and Instagram for violating policy against sharing harmful COVID-19 misinformation."

In an interview with the leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, Zuckerberg recently criticized the Trump administration's response to the virus, saying it was now "clear the trajectory in the U.S. is significantly worse than many other countries."

Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks about the new Facebook News feature at the Paley Center For Media on October 25, 2019 in New York City. Drew Angerer/Getty