A vaccine expert has labelled controversial coronavirus comments from Craig Kelly as “appalling” and “destructive”, pleading with the Prime Minister to put his MP in his place.
The Liberal MP has developed a social media following by promoting wild claims about COVID-19 that health experts say is misinformation.
Mr Kelly has harvested a community of followers who are consuming up to three posts a day on his Facebook account. His virus theories include claims that asking children to wear face masks is “child abuse”.
These beliefs, echoed by fellow MP George Christensen and celebrity chef Pete Evans, pose a threat to the vaccine rollout in Australia, according to Immunisation Coalition chief executive Kim Sampson.
“It‘s appalling, it really is,” Mr Sampson told the NCA NewsWire, specifically in reference to Mr Kelly’s spruiking.
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“He should be pulled into shape, it’s just totally unacceptable for somebody with a national voice to be putting out that kind of misleading and abhorrent information.
“It shocks me when I read that kind of stuff and I really believe our prime minister needs to step up and put Craig Kelly in his place.
“Craig Kelly is saying some terrible things and there are other high-profile people that are saying things that are so destructive and counter-productive.”
Mr Sampson’s group has joined a coalition of health and technology experts to demand federal parliament hold big tech companies accountable for the conspiratorial misinformation spewing from social media.
The group has created a live portal to counteract the scourge of false news spread by anti-vaxxers and other conspiracy theorists.
It is designed to expose harmful and inaccurate views shared on Facebook and other platforms by giving health officials, journalists and researchers a real-time breakdown of what is being discussed.
The coalition — which includes the Immunisation Foundation of Australia, Coronavax and the Doherty Institute — hopes the live list will squash anti-vaxxer views as Australia prepares for the rollout of a coronavirus vaccine.
The group is being led by Reset Australia, the local division of a global initiative working to counter digital threats to democracy.
Its executive director, Chris Cooper, told NCA NewsWire the level of misinformation was “prolific”.
He said false news had always been present on social media because platforms such as Facebook prioritised sensational and conspiratorial content.
“But what we’ve seen just through doing very basic scans is we are able to come up with examples constantly that are false scientific-looking or mimicking legitimate news saying everything from COVID is a hoax through to the more wild stuff such as vaccines containing 5G receptors,” Mr Cooper said.
“The problem is we can very easily find these examples with no trouble, but it’s difficult to gauge the scale and the veracity of the problem because there’s no oversight.
“The platforms are the only entities that have a bird’s-eye view over what’s trending, what’s going viral, and how far and wide.”