James O'Keefe
© AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
In this Sept. 1, 2015, photo, James O'Keefe, President of Project Veritas Action, waits to be introduced during a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington.
Facebook said Wednesday that it pulled a video by right-wing activist James O'Keefe for violating the platform's rule against sharing misinformation about the novel coronavirus.

Facebook told The Washington Times that the video was removed by the company, which prohibits content about the coronavirus that could potentially lead to imminent physical harm.

Mr. O'Keefe, the founder of the hidden-camera sting group Project Veritas, had shared the video Tuesday through social media accounts including his personal Facebook page.


Recorded inside an automobile with Mr. O'Keefe behind the wheel, the 9½-minute video chronicles him visiting a drive-thru facility in New York state where people can be tested from their cars for COVID-19, the potentially deadly respiratory disease caused by the coronavirus.

Mr. O'Keefe is seen throughout the clip goading military and medical personnel with questions about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic and how it has been covered by the media.


Comment: "Goading". Others might call that asking questions.


Among the people caught on camera by Mr. O'Keefe is an individual he identified as a member of the Army National Guard telling him twice that COVID-19 is the same as the flu.

"I'm speaking with these Army guys," Mr. O'Keefe says in the video. "I mean, they're basically just telling me it's just the bad flu. That's all they're saying. It's not as bad as the media is saying and everything."

Mr. O'Keefe uploaded a version of the video to his widely followed Facebook account with a caption that said it contained breaking video an Army National Guardsman telling Project Veritas that the media coverage of the pandemic is overblown and that the coronavirus is the flu.

COVID-19 is not the flu, and Facebook determined that incorrectly stating as much runs afoul of the social network's rules prohibiting coronavirus-related misinformation.


Comment: It's true - coronavirus is not the flu. It is, however, comparable to the flu in its spread and symptoms. That this comparison would be deemed in breach of Facebook's policies is curious, to say the least.


Facebook told to The Washington Times that the video violated the platform's policy against using its platform to spread dangerous misinformation about the coronavirus because falsely equating COVID-19 with the common flu could potentially cause a person to decide not to heed the advice of medical professionals and contribute to the virus spreading.

CNN first reported late Tuesday that Facebook planned to remove Mr. O'Keefe's video for violating its coronavirus-related policies.

Versions of the video uploaded to Twitter and YouTube remained online Wednesday, and CNN reported that spokespeople for those companies determined the video was not in violation of either of the platform's policies.

Mr. O'Keefe subsequently responded to the report on Twitter by lashing in a series of several tweets directed at the CNN journalist who first flagged the Facebook video. He has since announced that he learned he tested negative for COVID-19.

Mr. O'Keefe said the video was filmed at a drive-thru testing center in New Rochelle, New York, where a sudden explosion of COVID-19 cases last month was followed by the state quickly becoming the epicenter of the nation's coronavirus outbreak.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Wednesday 83,712 cases of COVID-19 have been documented in New York and that 1,942 people within the state have died from the disease.

Nationwide, more than 200,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed, according to data maintained by Johns Hopkins University. Of those, over 8,000 have recovered and 4,00 have died, according to the data.

Mr. O'Keefe, 35, has previously released undercover videos created by surreptitiously recording individuals at organizations including Planned Parenthood and CNN, among other targets. More than 90,000 people follow the Facebook page where he posted the video, while his Twitter account is followed by over 700,000 other users.