• Site was removed day after Sir Simon Stevens condemned videos
  • Facebook says it violated misinformation policies
  • Some other sites still accessible
  • HSJ raised concerns with social network

A Facebook group hosting videos of empty hospitals has been closed down by the social network.

The “empty hospitals” Facebook group — which had over 13,000 members on Friday morning — contained videos shot by members of the public, purporting to show underutilised hospitals that disproved the NHS was under pressure from covid patients.

Sir Simon Stevens, NHS England chief executive, attacked such videos on Thursday night as potentially leading to behaviour changes which could kill people. Prime minister Boris Johnson said at the same press conference that people who stood outside hospitals claiming covid was a hoax should “grow up”.

HSJ contacted Facebook about the group on Wednesday, drawing attention to some of its content, including conspiracy theories, vitriol towards NHS staff and, in one case, a threat to kill health workers which could have been construed as a joke.

On Friday, Facebook confirmed to HSJ the group had been removed. A spokesperson said: “We have removed this page for violating our policies on misinformation that could lead to imminent physical harm.

“Between March and October we removed more than 12 million pieces of this type of content on Facebook and Instagram and displayed warnings on about 167 million pieces of covid content on Facebook, pointing to debunking articles written by our fact checking partners. We continue to work with public health experts and the UK government on how to further tackle covid misinformation.”

The group was one of several on Facebook which included claims hospitals were empty and assertions that the impact of covid was, to some extent, a hoax, allowing governments to take control over people’s lives. On Friday morning, many of those posting on the group were complaining Facebook was removing posts or placing warnings on them.

A new group — with far fewer members — sprang up within hours of Facebook’s actions but, by Monday, also appeared to have been deleted. Some smaller groups remain, including some which are private with content only visible to members.