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YouTube removes videos posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that spread coronavirus misinformation

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro meets supporters as he arrives at Alvorada Palace in Brasilia on July 19. (Adriano Machado/Reuters)

YouTube said Thursday that it has removed content posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s channel for violating rules against spreading misinformation about the coronavirus.

The far-right leader has frequently — without evidence — criticized shutdowns, vaccines and mask-wearing while pushing unproven cures for covid-19. Brazil has officially recorded the world’s third-highest number of coronavirus infections and the second-highest number of related fatalities, following the United States.

Facebook and YouTube spent a year fighting covid misinformation. It’s still spreading.

YouTube said in a statement that it took down content posted by Bolsonaro “after careful review” and without consideration of his position or politics.

The president’s YouTube channel shares videos of his weekly national addresses, which often include interviews with ministers and diatribes about the virus.

One of the now-removed videos was from a live address May 27, during which Bolsonaro recommended using indigenous teas and unproven drugs, such as chloroquine, to fight the virus — despite there being no scientific evidence to support their effectiveness, CNN Brazil reported. In another now-censored post, former health minister Eduardo Pazuell falsely compared the coronavirus to HIV/AIDS, the BBC reported.

About 15 videos were removed, according to the BBC.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro hospitalized after 10 days of hiccups

“Our policies don’t allow content that claims hydroxychloroquine and/or Ivermectin are effective to treat or prevent covid-19, claims that there is a guaranteed cure for covid-19, and claims that masks don’t work to prevent the spread of the virus,” a spokesperson for YouTube said in a statement.

“These guidelines are in line with the guidance of local and global health authorities, and we update our policies as these guidelines change,” the statement continued.

Bolsonaro’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment, Reuters reported.

Visual timeline shows Bolsonaro flouted health recommendations before contracting coronavirus — and after

Bolsonaro’s rants and rhetoric around the coronavirus have led to clashes with tech giants before. Last year, Facebook and Twitter removed videos of him railing against social distancing measures, among other misinformation.

But others have criticized the massive social media companies for being too slow to monitor and remove false information about the coronavirus on their platforms, which have become frequent sources of disinformation during the pandemic.

The worst of both worlds: Bolsonaro said his hands-off pandemic response would protect Brazil’s poor. But they’ve ended up suffering the most.

On Wednesday, Brazil’s health ministry reported 54,517 new coronavirus cases and 1,424 covid-19 related deaths during the previous 24 hours, bringing the country’s official total to more than 19 million cases and more than 545,000 fatalities. Bolsonaro himself contracted covid-19.

Despite Brazil’s massive outbreaks, the country’s vaccine rollout has been slow. About 43 percent of Brazilians have received at least one shot, according to Reuters’s global tracker.

Read more:

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro hospitalized after 10 days of hiccups

As coronavirus probe deepens, Bolsonaro increasingly threatened by a corruption scandal

The arduous path for oxygen to reach the sick in one of Brazil’s most remote regions

Coronavirus: What you need to know

The latest: The CDC has loosened many of its recommendations for battling the coronavirus, a strategic shift that puts more of the onus on individuals, rather than on schools, businesses and other institutions, to limit viral spread.

Variants: BA.5 is the most recent omicron subvariant, and it’s quickly become the dominant strain in the U.S. Here’s what to know about it, and why vaccines may only offer limited protection.

Vaccines: Vaccines: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone age 12 and older get an updated coronavirus booster shot designed to target both the original virus and the omicron variant circulating now. You’re eligible for the shot if it has been at least two months since your initial vaccine or your last booster. An initial vaccine series for children under 5, meanwhile, became available this summer. Here’s what to know about how vaccine efficacy could be affected by your prior infections and booster history.

Guidance: CDC guidelines have been confusing — if you get covid, here’s how to tell when you’re no longer contagious. We’ve also created a guide to help you decide when to keep wearing face coverings.

Where do things stand? See the latest coronavirus numbers in the U.S. and across the world. The omicron variant is behind much of the recent spread.

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