Missouri chiropractor Eric Anthony Nepute and his business Quickwork LLC are the first entity to be reviewed under the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, with a federal complaint looking at Facebook marketing claims that his zinc and vitamin D products can cure or prevent COVID-19. Facebook removed some of Nepute’s videos after he was named in the complaint, but the platform has not removed all of his Facebook and Instagram accounts that spread harmful medical misinformation and violate the platforms’ Terms of Service.
Nepute’s remaining Facebook and Instagram pages are riddled with COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. And his pages include video content that violates Facebook and Instagram’s Terms of Service against spreading COVID-19 misinformation by “promoting that others not get the COVID-19 vaccine” and advertising “prohibited content” that uses “the public health crisis to create a sense of urgency or incite fear” to buy a product.
On April 15, the Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission announced that Nepute’s business, which goes by the name “Wellness Warrior,” allegedly “advertised that their vitamin D and zinc nutritional supplements could prevent or treat COVID-19” and advertised “without scientific support that their supplements were equally or more effective therapies for COVID-19 than the currently available vaccines.”
As per a Federal Trade Commission statement, the Department of Justice says Nepute’s ads and videos on Facebook violate the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act, which states that it is unlawful “for any person, partnership, or corporation to engage in a deceptive act or practice in or affecting commerce associated with the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID-19.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control, using zinc supplements is not recommended “for the prevention of COVID-19.” Similarly, the CDC says there is “insufficient data” to “recommend either for or against the use of vitamin D for the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.”
On his remaining Facebook profiles, Nepute posts videos of himself promoting his supplements while spreading conspiracy theories and misinformation about the coronavirus and COVID-19 vaccines.
During an April 14 Facebook live, Nepute declared that vaccines are “hurting people” and affect recipients' DNA (they don’t). During his fearmongering, Nepute pushed his zinc tablets by insisting that these “important minerals'' can stop viruses from “regenerating and regrowing” in your body.
During a March 27 Facebook Live on the Wellness Warrior Facebook account, Nepute pushed his supplements while instructing his audience to “not be deceived by” narratives about mutations and variants because “if you have a healthy immune system,” you “have nothing to worry about.” Nepute later proclaimed that “the body can heal from anything” and the pandemic “is a facade.”
Both of Nepute’s remaining Facebook accounts violate the platform’s Terms of Service on spreading COVID-19 misinformation and advertising “prohibited content.” Facebook’s Terms of Service clearly state that “guaranteed cures or prevention methods for COVID-19” that have not been approved by public health authorities are not allowed on the platform.
On the official Wellness Warrior Instagram account, Nepute posts videos infested with vaccine misinformation. (Facebook owns Instagram, which should allow the company to cross identify individuals who spread misinformation on both platforms, yet Facebook has repeatedly overlooked vaccine misinformation on Instagram.)
During an Instagram Live titled “What You Need To Know About Vaccines,” Nepute told his followers that vaccines “cause neurological conditions” and “mutate your DNA.” Nepute also said physicians who say the vaccine is “safe and effective” have not “read the studies” and suggested that COVID-19 vaccines may be linked to infertility (this claim has been debunked).
Toward the latter half of the video, Nepute baselessly compared COVID-19 deaths to that of the seasonal flu and instructed his audience to take vitamin D3 and zinc supplements to “protect” themselves from contracting disease.
In both of these Instagram videos, Nepute’s account violated Instagram’s Terms of Service on vaccine misinformation. The terms state that content cannot promote “that others not get the COVID-19 vaccine,” that content cannot include “claims that prevention is guaranteed” through specific products, and that the rules protect against “exploitation of this crisis for financial gain.”
Nepute’s misinformation comes at a time in which it is critical for Americans to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in order to end the pandemic.
Nepute’s medical misinformation schemes have been previously reported. In April 2020, Nepute attempted to sell a combination of tonic water and zinc as a COVID-19 prevention. His Wellness Warrior supplements have been amplified by the likes of former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who sells the product during his podcast War Room: Pandemic.