Spend time on Facebook these days and you are likely to come across a lot of misinformation about COVID-19. Among the people peddling the lies is ultra-conservative Steven Hotze and Conservative Republicans of Texas, which has been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Hotze has been stirring the pot about the pandemic since the end of March. Scroll down through the CRT Facebook page feed, and you’ll find posts comparing COVID-19 to the rise of the Third Reich and attempts to draw similarities between the iron muzzles slaves were forced to wear and the masks we all are being asked to wear to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Earlier this month, he went too far with a post claiming that masks “create serious health risks for the wearer.” The post was no longer visible when Reform Austin visited the CRT page, but it is still up on Hotze’s personal Facebook page.
The Dr. Russell Blaylock named in the CRT post is a retired neurosurgeon who has launched a second career opposing science-based medicine. He promotes medicine and supplements that he sells under the label Brain Repair Formula. He has been a guest on InfoWars, the conspiracy group which was behind the recent protests in Austin.
Facebook has said it is taking aggressive steps to stop misinformation and harmful content from spreading and has pledged to remove misinformation about COVID-19 that could contribute to imminent physical harm. Despite Facebook’s policy, Popular Information, an online newsletter about politics, identified dozens of popular Facebook posts that state or suggest that wearing a mask will make you sick, including the post by Hotze.
Reform Austin did find two other posts — one on the CRT page and one on Hotze’s personal page — that had been removed by Facebook. They appeared to be related to something said by Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Just to be clear, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people wear a cloth face mask to cover their nose and mouth. This is to protect people around you if you are infected but do not have symptoms.