Facebook, YouTube Removes Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro Video Linking COVID-19 Vaccine to AIDS

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Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro found himself in social media time-out Monday after his video warning of a supposed link between Covid-19 vaccines and AIDS triggered action by Facebook and YouTube.

Facebook removed the offending video, while YouTube went further, suspending the far-right leader for one week in addition to blocking the clip.

“We removed a video from Jair Bolsonaro’s channel for violating our medical disinformation policies on COVID-19 by claiming that vaccines do not reduce the risk of contracting the disease and that they cause other infectious diseases,” YouTube said in a statement sent to AFP.

Bolsonaro’s latest run-in with social media networks including Facebook, on which he heavily relies to rally his base, came after he cited purported “official reports” from the British government — since debunked — in his weekly live address on Facebook last Thursday.

He claimed the reports “suggest that people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 are developing Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome much faster than expected.”

“I recommend you read the article,” he added, without saying where the information came from.

“I’m not going to read it here, because I don’t want to lose my Facebook live video.”

Facebook, which took down the comments late Sunday or early Monday, has removed Bolsonaro posts in the past.

Earlier, it found he spread misinformation or incited people to violate social distancing policies. But this is the first time it has taken down one of his weekly live addresses, a cornerstone of his communications.

Bolsonaro has violated YouTube standards once before as well, and the company said the president will not be able to post new videos or do live broadcasts for seven days. 

The rest of his videos on the channel, where he has 3.5 million subscribers, will remain accessible.

The British government denied any such “reports” cited by Bolsonaro, in response to an AFP fact-checking team.

The Brazilian Society of Infectious Disease Specialists said in a statement there was no evidence of any relationship between COVID-19 vaccines and AIDS.

Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The president has said he does not plan to be vaccinated against COVID-19, and joked in the past the vaccine could “turn you into an alligator.”


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