Covid-19: How are Facebook, TikTok and Reddit dealing with misinformation about ivermectin?

On TikTok, the hashtag #ivermectinworks has reached over 13,800 views. — AFP Relaxnews

It has been touted as a new miracle cure by some social network users. Ivermectin has gone viral on TikTok, Facebook and Reddit.

A surprising feat for an antiparasitic product anecdotally reported to have remarkable effects against Covid-19: fake news that community platforms are attempting to combat as well as they can.

Even the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) fired off a tweet to remind Internet users in an incredulous tone that they are not the animals that ivermectin is intended for: “You are not a horse. You are not a cow. Seriously, y’all. Stop it.”

For some time now, many Internet users have been suggesting that ivermectin, an antiparasitic for animals, has properties that are useful in fighting Covid-19. It has been referred to as a miracle treatment.

The drug has attracted so much attention in the United States that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has sounded the alarm over the increase in ivermectin prescriptions: “By mid-August, physicians were writing out more than 88,000 prescriptions of the drug per week – well above the pre-pandemic baseline of 3,600,” the AFP reported.

Over on TikTok, the hashtag #ivermectin has reached 36.6 million views without counting the different variations between #ivermectin4covid at 701,400 views, #ivermectinworks or #ivermectina (the Spanish name) at 16.4 million views.

According to The Verge, TikTok has removed videos violating their community rules, but the hashtags are not blocked on the platform, as was the case for the hashtag #stopthesteal during the Capitol Hill riots in January 2021. Indeed the hashtag has probably not been blocked because some of the most popular videos on the platform now are ones explaining why ivermectin is not a miracle cure and why it is in fact dangerous for health.

All videos contain either the banner “Learn more about Covid-19 vaccines” which links to the “Coronavirus” page with reliable sources, or “Learn the facts about Covid-19” which leads the user to the World Health Organization (WHO) account.

On Reddit, discussions are open and even followed by over 11,700 members on the subreddit r/ivermectin. In response to criticism of the group, Reddit CEO Steve Huffman explained: “While we appreciate the sentiment of those demanding that we ban more communities that challenge consensus views on the pandemic, we continue to believe in the good of our communities and hope that we collectively approach the challenges of the pandemic with empathy, compassion, and a willingness to understand what others are going through, even when their viewpoint on the pandemic is different from yours.”

So for now the door to this community remains open. While such discussions are permitted, the CEO of Reddit emphasises that the site still closely monitors publications that could violate the rules of use: “However, manipulating or cheating Reddit to amplify any particular viewpoint is against our policies, and we will continue to action communities that do so or that violate any of our other rules, including those dedicated to fraud (e.g. fake vaccine cards) or encouraging harm (e.g. consuming bleach).”

Here, too, netizens took to the discussion to flood it with memes. As for Facebook, a spokesperson for the social network said the platform removes content that “attempts to buy, sell, donate or ask for ivermectin. We also enforce against any account or group that violates our Covid-19 and vaccine policies, including claims that Ivermectin is a guaranteed cure or guaranteed prevention, and we don’t allow ads promoting Ivermectin as a treatment for Covid-19,” according to The Verge.

This hasn’t stopped Internet users from becoming more inventive by using abbreviations like “ivm” or phrases like “moo juice” to continue to be able to talk about the drug without fear of repercussion.

Recently, both Facebook and YouTube disclosed the number of accounts and videos removed from their respective platforms for misinformation related to the Covid-19 pandemic. – AFP Relaxnews

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