Facebook removes celebrity chef’s page over conspiracies

Chef Pete Evans attends the G'Day USA 2010 Black Tie gala at the Hollywood & Highland Center on January 16, 2010 in Hollywood, California
Former celebrity chef Pete Evans has amassed a huge following online

Facebook has removed the page of Australian celebrity chef Pete Evans after he repeatedly shared misinformation about the coronavirus. Evans, who had about 1.5 million Facebook followers, spread conspiracy theories about Covid and vaccines which are refuted by medical experts.

Previously, Facebook had taken down individual posts from Evans deemed to be misinformation, but the platform has now removed his entire page. “We don’t allow anyone to share misinformation about Covid-19 that could lead to imminent physical harm or about Covid-19 vaccines that have been debunked by public health experts,” the company said. Facebook said it had removed the page for “repeated violations” of its policies. Evans had shared a range of debunked theories about the severity of the virus, mask-wearing and vaccines, as well as incorrect claims about 5G networks. The chef came to prominence as a judge for 10 seasons on Australian cooking show My Kitchen Rules, his account on Facebook-owned Instagram – with 278,000 followers – remains active.

Evans posted on Instagram on Thursday that he was “very glad to be one of the catalysts for a conversation about such an important topic – freedom of speech”. Many of his fans expressed frustration about Facebook’s decision. Evans’ critics have long called on Facebook to remove his access to the platform for spreading false information. Prior to the pandemic, several Australian health bodies had criticized Evans – known as “Paleo Pete” – for promoting pseudo-science about diets and cancer cures. In 2017, the Australian Medical Association accused Evans of endangering lives with his false claims about the benefits of certain minerals and toxins in sunscreen, some protesters cited his videos as inspiration for attending anti-lockdown rallies in cities such as Melbourne. In April, his company was fined by Australian regulators for selling a A$15,000 (£8,400; $11,300) light machine which he incorrectly claimed could cure the “Wuhan coronavirus”.

Then in November, he lost several business sponsorships after he shared a meme on social media that featured a neo-Nazi symbol, his post included a “black sun” – a symbol associated with Nazi Germany and used by the far-right including the Christchurch gunman. Following a backlash, he offered an apology to “anyone who misinterpreted” the post. His cookbooks were pulled by major retailers after that post, and his publisher Pan Macmillan said it had ended his author contract. Evans was also fired from the next Australian season of television show I’m A Celebrity – Get Me Out Of Here.

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