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Facebook, YouTube take down Bolsonaro video over false vaccine claim

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Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro attends a ceremony to sanction the bill that create the Federal Regional Court, in Brasilia
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RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) -Facebook and YouTube have removed from their platforms a video by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in which the far-right leader made a false claim that COVID-19 vaccines were linked with developing AIDS.

Both Facebook and Alphabet Inc's YouTube said the video, which was recorded on Thursday, violated their policies.

"Our policies don't allow claims that COVID-19 vaccines kill or seriously harm people," a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

YouTube confirmed that it had taken the same step later in the day.

"We removed a video from Jair Bolsonaro's channel for violating our medical disinformation policy regarding COVID-19 for alleging that vaccines don't reduce the risk of contracting the disease and that they cause other infectious diseases," YouTube said in a statement.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS), COVID-19 vaccines approved by health regulators are safe for most people, including those living with HIV, the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, known as AIDS.

Bolsonaro's office did not respond immediately to a request for comment outside normal hours.

In July, YouTube removed videos from Bolsonaro's official channel in which he recommended using hydroxychloroquine and ivermectin against COVID-19, despite scientific proof that these drugs are not effective in treating the disease.

Since then, Bolsonaro has avoided naming both drugs on his live broadcasts, saying the videos could be removed and advocating "early treatment" in general for COVID-19.

Bolsonaro, who tested positive for the coronavirus in July last year, had credited his taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug, for his mild symptoms. While Bolsonaro himself last January said that he wouldn't take any COVID-19 vaccine, he did vow to quickly inoculate all Brazilians.

In addition to removing the video, YouTube has suspended Bolsonaro for seven days, national newspapers O Estado de S. Paulo and O Globo reported, citing a source familiar with the matter.

YouTube did not respond to a separate Reuters request for comment regarding the suspension on Monday night.

(Reporting by Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Additional reporting by Gram Slattery in Rio de Janeiro and Anthony Boadle in Brasilia; Writing by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Leslie Adler)