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Chinese exile Guo Wengui uses a disinformation network to find unproven drugs to treat Covid. to advance

Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui will hold a press conference in New York on November 20, 2018.

Don Emmert | AFP | Getty Images

Guo Wengui, a wealthy businessman who fled China in 2014 and is linked to several high profile far-right figures in America, uses his online network to promote unproven drugs to treat Covid-19 while providing misinformation about the vaccines used to combat it to spread the disease.

As recently as Sunday, Guo used his show in a live stream on the online platform GTV to promote ivermectin, which is used to treat parasitic infections, and the malaria drug artemisinin as a means of combating the coronavirus.

Neither the Food and Drug Administration nor the World Health Organization have approved either drug for the treatment of Covid. The FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have warned against using ivermectin to treat and prevent Covid infections.

Guo on Thursday equated vaccinating children with murder. "Please don't get your children vaccinated anymore. It's not about such a simple vaccination, it's about murder," he said in a translated video on the Gettr social media platform. "Those who have been vaccinated could face serious unforeseen consequences."

The CDC recommends people 12 and older get a Covid vaccine, which has been shown to be highly effective in reducing the chance of hospitalization and reducing the spread of the disease. Authorities are expected to approve the vaccine for younger children later this year.

GTV, in which Guo regularly appears, has been described by researchers at Graphika as part of the businessman's larger media empire and disinformation network.

Guo is one of a group of mostly conservative voices promoting ivermectin and other unauthorized Covid treatments as President Joe Biden's and state governments struggle to convince more Americans to get vaccinated. According to CDC data, 62 percent of people 12 years and older in the United States are fully vaccinated.

NBC News reported that a pro-Trump telemedicine website and right-wing organizations are among the largest providers of false information about unproven coronavirus treatments.

Guo has been close to former Trump White House chief strategist Steve Bannon for years. A Guo-affiliated foundation recently hosted an event featuring statements from Bannon and others linked to former President Donald Trump, including attorney and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, and MyPillow CEO and conspiracy theorist Mike Lindell.

Guo fled China in 2014 pending corruption allegations. After Guo criticized China's leaders, arrest warrants were reportedly issued against him for corruption and bribery. Guo denies the allegations. He has since been sued by GTV investors. His lawyers called the plaintiffs' allegations "unfounded".

“Remember, artemisinin, ivermectin, dexamethasone, oxytetracycline, hydroxychloroquine, and zinc are the necessary drugs to fight the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] virus. Those few drugs will eradicate the virus, ”Guo said during his Sunday episode on GTV, an official translation of the broadcast, which can be found on the affiliated GNews website. "Artemisinin is also effective for those who received one vaccination but not the second or third vaccination," he added.

This GTV stream received over 7 million views. GTV did not respond to a request for comment after CNBC sent the company a note through its feedback portal.

Despite warnings from health officials, people who oppose Covid vaccines are turning to ivermectin, which is widely used as a de-wormer for horses, although it can also be used to treat parasitic infections in humans.

The hugely popular podcast host Joe Rogan, accused by federal health officials of spreading misinformation about vaccines, announced last week that he had the virus and used ivermectin to treat his disease, among other things.

"The FDA has not approved or approved ivermectin for the treatment or prevention of COVID-19 in humans or animals. Ivermectin has not been shown to be safe or effective in these indications," the FDA said in a recent statement. "There is a lot of misinformation out there, and you may have heard that it is okay to take large doses of ivermectin. That is not okay."

In addition to Guo and Rogan, other Covid patients have administered ivermectin. Conservative radio host Dennis Prager said on his podcast in late July that he used ivermectin as prophylaxis and after the FDA spoke out against the use of ivermectin to treat Covid, he accused the agency of “killing tens of thousands of Americans with that statement . "

"I've told you pretty clearly. Either the FDA is misleading you or I'm misleading you," Prager told his audience.

Progressive media watchdog Media Matters said other conservative figures at Fox News have highly praised the use of ivermectin.

Guo has also focused on artemisinin in his most recent episodes.

A translation of Guo's live broadcast on August 30th had a headline that read, "Artemisinin Is the Antidote for the CCP Virus, Mr. Miles Guo said." Miles Guo is one of Guo's aliases, as is Miles Kwok. The translation on the GNews website shows an image of an artemisinin capsule container with the text "Covid-19 Here Comes the Cure – Artemisinin".

"Mr. Miles Guo confirmed that artemisinin, which was discovered and extracted by Nobel Prize winner Tu Youyou, is more than 99% effective in curing the CCP virus," the translation reads. "He also reiterated that all chapters have to stock up on ivermectin, azithromycin and oxytetracycline." The August 30th livestream had 6 million views.

The WHO has announced that artemisinin, an antimalarial drug made from the Artemisia plant, will be tested on hospitalized Covid patients. WHO said there doesn't need to be any evidence yet that products made from Artemisia are effective in treating Covid-19, the BBC reported.

Guo's campaign to promote ivermectin and artemisinin is the latest example of his misinformation tactics, according to new research from Graphika.

"In promoting artemisinin, Guo and his media network are relying on tactics that Graphika and the Virality Project have observed amplifying other unproven Covid-19 treatments," the researchers say in a blog post. "These include ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine, both of which are sponsored by Guo's network alongside artemisinin."

Translations of Guo's posts on Gettr, operated by Trump advisor Jason Miller, show that the Chinese businessman also used this medium to advance similar concepts about unproven Covid treatments. Miller said Gettr is funded in part by a foundation affiliated with Guo.

In a Gettr video on Saturday, Guo repeatedly advertises artemisinin and ivermectin as Covid treatment.

"Artemisinin is the best, and it definitely works for those who were vaccinated with the first shot," read a translation of his post. "Ivermectin is almost 100% effective so far. All patients who have used it are cured," added Guo later in the post.

He made similar claims in his video post on Thursday on Gettr.

As for the likelihood of developing Covid after receiving a vaccine, the data reported by the New York Times gives a chance of about 1 in 5,000 per day. This is based on information from Utah, Virginia and a county in Washington state. For regions with higher vaccination rates, such as Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, the Times data puts the odds at 1 in 10,000.

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