Countdown star Rachel Riley, the Community Security Trust and the MP Damian Collins are among public figures throwing their weight behind an open letter urging social media companies to “deplatform” the conspiracy theorist David Icke.
The former footballer and sports commentator, who previously claimed the world is run by reptiles, has faced accusations of antisemitism from anti-racism and Jewish groups in the past.
The letter, coordinated by the Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH) and addressed to Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Amazon executives, counts among its signatories the advocacy group Hope not Hate and eight celebrity medics, including the Jewish TV doctor Ellie Cannon.
“In the face of this global pandemic that has already claimed hundreds of thousands of lives, it is more urgent than ever that accounts spreading harmful misinformation are prevented from doing so. There is a moral duty on each of you to act. Please remove David Icke from your platforms,” it says.
CCDH unveiled a report on Friday, alleging Icke is spreading “dangerous misinformation” about covid-19 to his two million followers, including the claim that “Sabbatian Frankists” and the Rothschilds are behind, or helped plan, the outbreak.
The centre says that Icke’s online audience increased by close to 400,000 new followers and subscribers since March, with one video about the outbreak referencing the Rothschild family viewed six million times.
Imran Ahmed, chief executive officer of CCDH, said on Friday:“While people around the world make enormous sacrifices to stall this pandemic, social media firms are instead profiting from the proliferation of misinformation on their platforms.
“Misinformation puts all of our lives at risk by encouraging the public not to comply with clinical guidance. It’s time to stop giving valuable airtime on their platform to the most dangerous voices and instead join with the rest of us in trying to contain this lethal pandemic.”
The letter comes after Ofcom sanctioned a local TV channel, London Live, for broadcasting an interview in which Icke aired “potentially harmful” views about the coronavirus pandemic. A London Live spokesperson said the TV channel “respects Ofcom’s decision in this case and apologises for any harm this may have caused.”
He has previously been invited by broadcasters including the BBC and ITV to discuss some of his conspiracy theories.