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Senate candidate Marshall slams Facebook virus ‘censorship’

September 2, 2020 GMT

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall is accusing Facebook of censorship after the social media giant removed a post from his account that promoted a conspiracy theory about federal reports of coronavirus deaths.

In the comments that Marshall posted Sunday, he said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had “quietly updated” its numbers to reflect a massive drop in the number of deaths due to COVID-19 in the U.S. The widely shared “Only 6%” theory has been debunked as a misrepresentation of CDC data detailing comorbidities.

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According to a screenshot that Marshall’s staff provided to the Associated Press, the now-removed post said 94% of people who have died from COVID-19 were “of advanced age” who had two to three “additional serious illnesses” and COVID-19 was the “sole cause of death” in only 6% of cases. It suggests the coronavirus was not a significant cause of death for those people.

“The change in reporting reflects the difference between dying from COVID-19 and dying with COVID-19,” it read.

On Tuesday, Marshall took to Facebook again to complain.

”Social media companies should not be allowed to censor science that they disagree with,” he said “This is corporate censorship, pure and simple. As a physician, I believe in discussing all data, options and research with my patients.”

Over the weekend, Twitter removed similar posts retweeted by supporters of the QAnon conspiracy theory that suggested the CDC had updated its records to show that only 6% of COVID-19 deaths were legitimate. President Donald Trump also tweeted the information, which Twitter later removed for violating its rules.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said Marshall’s post was removed because it “misstates CDC data about the deadliness” of COVID-19 and, therefore, violates it policies against “spreading harmful misinformation.”

Marshall spokesman Eric Pahls denied the post had “some sort of spin or analysis.” Marshall was “simply presenting data from the CDC,” he said in an email.

“This data shows him that for many individuals, it is possible to start getting back to normal safely and responsibly,” Pahls said.

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Marshall, a two-term GOP congressman is running for the U.S. Senate against Democratic nominee Barbara Bollier.

Kansas Democratic Party spokeswoman Reeves Oyster accused Marshall of trying to mislead Kansans.

“Roger Marshall continues to mislead and jeopardize the public safety of all Kansans by refusing to follow the public health guidance, spreading misinformation and not taking the COVID-19 pandemic seriously,” Oyster said in a statement.

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Andy Tsubasa Field is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.