Facebook deletes virus conspiracy accounts in Germany
Facebook says it has deleted the accounts, pages and groups linked to virus conspiracy theorists, anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers in Germany who are vocal opponents of government restrictions to control the coronavirus pandemic.
With just 10 days to go before Germany's parliamentary elections - where the handling of the pandemic by Angela Merkel's goverment will come under scrutiny - Facebook said it had "removed a network of Facebook and Instagram accounts" linked to the so-called "Querdenker" or Lateral Thinker movement.
The pages posted "harmful health misinformation, hate speech and incitement to violence", the social media giant said in a statement.
It said that the people behind the pages "used authentic and duplicate accounts to post and amplify violating content, primarily focused on promoting the conspiracy that the German government's Covid-19 restrictions are part of a larger plan to strip citizens of their freedoms and basic rights."
The "Querdenker" movement, which is already under surveillance by Germany's intelligence services, likes to portray itself as the mouthpiece of opponents
of the government's coronavirus restrictions, organising rallies around the country that have drawn crowds of several thousands.
It loosely groups together activists from both the far-right and far-left of the political spectrum, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers. And some of their rallies have descended into violence.
Social media platforms regularly face accusations that they help propagate misinformation and disinformation, particularly with regard to the pandemic and vaccines.