NEW DELHI: Facebook removed a Hyderabad-based doctor’s post which offered potentially misleading medical advice including a blanket drugs prescription to Covid-19 patients on its social networking platform, heeding a first of its kind request from the Karnataka government amid the pandemic.
The American social media company told ET it had removed the post of cardiologist Sanjeev Kumar on Thursday, two days after it received a written request from the state health department, as it violated the company’s “misinformation and harm policy”.
Kumar had posted videos and messages, including a blanket prescription with names of 11 drugs “for very sick patients with low oxygen saturation but unable to find a bed”. In a post on July 8, which was shared by more than 4,000 Facebook users, he suggested the dosage of every drug and the times it needed to be taken by the patient.
The Karnataka health department wrote to Facebook on Tuesday, asking it to take down the post as it “violated existing guidelines of medical prescriptions”. “This particular account was under our watch as we felt such a general prescription could mislead people. We don’t want people to self-medicate themselves at a time of a crisis like this,” the state health department’s information, education and communication (IEC) special officer Suresh Shastri told ET.
He said as part of an initiative of the state information and public relations department, a team had been constantly examining and countering fake news on Covid-19, particularly on social media.
In response to a query emailed by ET, a Facebook spokesperson said, “We don’t allow misinformation on our platform that could lead to imminent physical harm and since January, when the WHO (World Health Organization) declared Covid-19 a pandemic, we have removed hundreds of thousands of posts including false cures, claims that Coronavirus doesn’t exist or that drinking bleach cures Covid-19.”
In addition, the spokesperson said, for misinformation that does not lead to imminent physical harm, Facebook works with its network of fact-checking partners to rate content and between March and April it had placed warning labels on 90 million pieces of content related to Covid-19 on its platform. “We know these efforts are working because 95% of the time when people saw these labels they did not click through to view the original content,” the spokesperson said in an emailed response.