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The Brazilian doctor offering fake Covid drugs for social media likes

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By Juliana Gragnani

BBC Brasil

image copyrightAssembleia Legislativa do RN/Divulgação

image captionAlbert Dickson prescribes fake remedies for Covid in exchange for a subscription to his YouTube channel

A Brazilian state representative and doctor is trading social media subscriptions and likes for medicines that have not been proved to be safe or effective against Covid-19.

Brazil has been hit hard by Covid, and many people are looking for help. Dr Albert Dickson, an ophthalmologist in Brazil’s north-east region, offers prospective patients “free medical consultations” as well as prescribing “prophylactic measures” against the virus.

The catch? You have to subscribe to his YouTube channel.

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“How are you going to be entitled to the consultation? You will subscribe to our channel… You will make a screenshot and send it to my WhatsApp. When you send it, you will start to have access,” he said in a video published on Facebook in March.

“The secret is to send the screenshot.”

In addition to being an ophthalmologist, Dr Dickson is a Brazilian state representative from the minor Pros party, which supports President Jair Bolsonaro.

In his consultations, he prescribes drugs such as ivermectin. That’s a treatment for lice and scabies which he and others say prevents Covid – but according to several leading health authorities, there’s no evidence to back up those claims.

BBC News Brasil interviewed a number of patients who contacted Dr Dickson on WhatsApp, and each confirmed they received a stock response reiterating the process and encouraging them to follow him on Instagram.

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We contacted Dr Dickson via email. He says he “suggests” signing up for his Instagram and YouTube channels because he puts “up-to-date research there and explains the disease in detail and our experience with it, in addition to answering questions live”.

“It is not mandatory to subscribe to the channel to get a consultation,” he says. “We just suggest it. Many don’t comply and we continue to respond. The virtual consultation is free, I have never charged.”

image copyrightYouTube/Reprodução

image captionDr Dickson and his wife celebrating when his YouTube channel reached 100,000 followers – it now has more than 200,000

Dr Dickson also said he was “above all a doctor” and said that the Federal Council of Medicine in Brazil, which regulates doctors, gives him the right to “medicate against Covid-19”.

His YouTube channel has more than 200,000 subscribers. He has around 140,000 followers on two Instagram profiles, along with 50,000 on Facebook.

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YouTube recently told BBC Brasil that, under a new rule, it had removed 12 of the doctor’s videos for spreading medical disinformation, such as stating there is a guaranteed cure for Covid and recommending the use of ivermectin or another drug, hydroxychloroquine.

The channel itself was not taken down, however, because the videos had been published prior to 12 April, when the new rule came into force.

A spokesman for Facebook, which owns Instagram, said it “removes proven false claims about the disease”. However, a claim by the doctor that ivermectin can prevent Covid was still live on Facebook at the time of publication of this story.

‘Early treatment’

Dr Dickson is not the only Brazilian doctor who advocates drugs unproven to treat Covid or even proven to be ineffective against the virus.

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Some call it “early treatment”, and the drugs they prescribe include hydroxychloroquine, which has been proven to be ineffective against Covid in several studies.

President Bolsonaro has hailed hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin and “early treatment” in public several times.

More than 439,000 people have died with Covid in Brazil.

image copyrightYouTube/Reprodução

image captionDr Dickson claims he treats 500 people a day

Dr Dickson told us via email that he’s been an “advocate of ‘early treatment’ since the beginning of the pandemic” and said he would continue to suggest it.

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His service appears to be very popular. In one of his videos, the doctor says he helps 500 people a day “from Sunday to Sunday, from 07:00 to 03:00 every day”.

At a meeting in Brazil’s Congress in July last year, Dickson said he had tended to “31,000 patients from all over the world” and had followed up by email with more than 6,000 others. Two had died, he said.

We asked the doctor how many people he had “treated” for Covid since the beginning of the pandemic, but he declined to give us a figure.

In May last year, Dr Dickson introduced two bills on “early treatment” at the Legislative Assembly of Rio Grande do Norte, where he is a representative.

One of the bills proposed the “free availability of drug kits with hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin and azithromycin drugs”. The other bill proposed the distribution of these drugs by health insurance companies.

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Prescription

BBC News Brasil has seen three prescriptions sent by Dr Dickson. All three contain his signature and a religious expression (“God be exalted! Read the Bible”).

One of Dickson’s prescriptions for Covid lists ivermectin, but a cocktail of other drugs: azithromycin (an antibiotic), prednisone (a steroid), dutasteride (which treats prostate enlargement), spironolactone (a diuretic), bromhexine (used in cough syrup), apixaban (an anticoagulant), and vitamin D.

“There is no proof that any of this works against Covid,” says André Bacchi, professor of pharmacology at the Federal University of Rondonópolis, who was shown the list by BBC Brasil.

The Anti-Vax Files

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The Anti-Vax Files: from BBC Trending and the BBC World Service. Download the podcast or listen online

“The idea of ‘​​supplementing’, taking increased doses of various substances to give someone a ‘superimmunity’ is fallacious, and unfortunately it is widespread in general society as well as among specialists,” Dr Bacchi says.

BBC News Brasil has spoken directly to a number of Dr Dickson’s patients – one of whom has been taking ivermectin weekly since last year.

image copyrightGetty Images

image captionThere is no evidence that ivermectin can prevent or cure Covid-19

Studies

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Not only are there no robust studies that show the drugs recommended in Dr Dickson’s prescription regime have any effect against Covid, Dr Bacchi says, but taking them pre-emptively could cause serious harm.

By taking an anticoagulant like apixaban, he says, “you put yourself at risk of unnecessary adverse effects, such as an increased risk of bleeding.”

“It is not a medication to be used prophylactically for anyone,” he says. “And corticosteroids such as prednisone taken in the early stages of the disease can actually decrease immunity.”

Hydroxychloroquine, touted by both former US President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro over the last year, has been shown to be ineffective against Covid. In March this year, a panel of international experts from the WHO made a “strong recommendation” not to use it in treating the disease.

The same is true of azithromycin. In December 2020, a large-scale randomised clinical trial found the antibiotic had no beneficial effect in patients hospitalised with Covid.

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Some studies have shown an association between vitamin D and better Covid outcomes. But these studies only observed what happens to people with higher and lower levels of the vitamin, without controlling for other factors – the evidence is not yet definitive.

‘Responsible’

Sergio Rego is a physician, and professor of bioethics at the Fiocruz National School of Public Health. He says that doctors who prescribe “early treatment” can be held responsible for any adverse effects resulting from it.

A section of Brazilian law, Dr Rego says, forbids “exposing the life or health of others to direct and imminent danger”, with a penalty of three months to one year in prison.

“The doctor has autonomy, but that does not exempt him from the consequences of his actions,” says Dr Rego. “It is not a carte blanche.”

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Listen to The Anti-Vax Files from BBC Trending, on the World Service. Download the podcast or listen online.

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LinkedIn Makes its 20 Most Popular LinkedIn Learning Courses Freely Available Throughout August

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Looking to up your skills for a job change or career advancement in the second half of the year?

This will help – today, LinkedIn has published its listing of the 20 most popular LinkedIn Learning courses over the first half of 2022. In addition to this, LinkedIn’s also making each of these courses free to access till the end of the month – so now may well be the best time to jump in and brush up on the latest, rising skills in your industry.

As per LinkedIn:

As the Great Reshuffle slows and the job market cools, professionals are getting more serious about skill building. The pandemic accelerated change across industries, and as a result, skills to do a job today have changed even compared to a few years ago. Professionals are responding by learning new skills to future-proof their careers and meet the moment.” 

LinkedIn says that over seven million people have undertaken these 20 courses this year, covering everything from improved communication, project management, coding, strategic thinking and more.

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Here are the top 20 LinkedIn Learning courses right now, which you can access via the relevant links:

  1. Goal Setting: Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) with Jessie Withers
  2. Excel Essential Training (Office 365/Microsoft 365) with Dennis Taylor
  3. Interpersonal Communication with Dorie Clark
  4. Cultivating a Growth Mindset with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  5. Project Management Foundations with Bonnie Biafore
  6. Using Questions to Foster Critical Thinking and Curiosity with Joshua Miller
  7. Essentials of Team Collaboration with Dana Brownlee
  8. Unconscious Bias with Stacey Gordon
  9. Learning Python with Joe Marini
  10. Communicating with Confidence with Jeff Ansell
  11.  Speaking Confidently and Effectively with Pete Mockaitis
  12. Learning the OWASP Top 10 with Caroline Wong
  13. Power BI Essential Training with Gini von Courter
  14. Strategic Thinking with Dorie Clark
  15. SQL Essential Training with Bill Weinman
  16. Developing Your Emotional Intelligence with Gemma Leigh Roberts
  17. Communication Foundations with Brenda Bailey-Hughes and Tatiana Kolovou
  18. Agile Foundations with Doug Rose
  19. Digital Marketing Foundations with Brad Batesole
  20. Critical Thinking with Mike Figliuolo
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If you’ve been thinking about upskilling, now may be the time – or maybe it’s just worth taking some of the programming courses, for example, so that you have a better understanding of how to communicate between departments on projects.

Or you could take an Agile course. If, you know, you don’t trust your own management ability.

The courses are available for free till August 31st via the above links.

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …

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Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

See also  New legislation could curb the harmful impact of social media on body image | The Independent

Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a pic.twitter.com/2chGZP9hr4

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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5-apps-for-scheduling-instagram-posts-on-iphone-and-android-–-mashable

Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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