Facebook has removed a page belonging to David Icke after social media platforms came under pressure for giving a platform to the conspiracy theorist, whose bogus messages about Covid-19 have continued to gain viewers.
A page belonging to the former footballer was removed for repeatedly violating Facebook’s policies on harmful misinformation, the company said on Friday.
But while the deleted page had more than 770,000 followers, a secondary account with more than 68,000 followers remained active. A verified account for him also remained on Twitter, which said it was prioritising the removal of Covid-19 content when it had a call to action that could potentially cause harm.
The move by Facebook came ahead of a call by an anti-hate group, the Centre for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), for social networks to remove Icke from their platforms. It was backed by figures including the doctors and broadcasters Christian Jessen, Dawn Harper and Pixie McKenna.
It also comes against the backdrop of attacks on mobile phone masts across the UK and elsewhere at a time amid concern about the impact of baseless theories linking coronavirus to 5G networks.
A report by the CCDH claims that Icke’s conspiracies about coronavirus have been viewed more than 30m times. Based on an analysis of videos that feature Icke speaking about the coronavirus on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram, the group described him as the leading producer of misinformation on Covid-19.
Imran Ahmed, the chief executive of the CCDH, said that Facebook must now look at what he described as a vast network of pages and groups in which Icke’s content was being shared.
“While people around the world make enormous sacrifices to stall this pandemic, social media firms are instead profiting from the proliferation of misinformation on their platforms,” he said.
“Misinformation puts all of our lives at risk by encouraging the public not to comply with clinical guidance.
The action against Icke’s social media presence was also welcomed by Hope Not Hate, which said: “Icke’s deluded, often antisemitic, posts encourage harmful lies to spread. Other platforms should follow Facebook’s lead.”
The local television station London Live was sanctioned recently after the media regulator, Ofcom, found it had posed a threat to the public’s health by showing a lengthy interview with Icke about the coronavirus pandemic.
Icke, who has repeated discredited claims that the pandemic is linked to 5G, had used the broadcast to claim without evidence that the pandemic was cover for a supposed global world order to crash the economy, end the use of cash payments and track people.