What impact can the work of fact checkers produce? It is usually the case that at best the test will change the public discourse for the better. If we clear from the discourse a unfounded factual claim that has penetrated into it, we can contribute to improving the framework in which the discussion of a particular issue takes place. But as our Argentine counterpart from the Chequeado fact.finding organization (Spanish: Chequeado) has shown, sometimes fact.checking can lead to criminal sanctions against people who spread life.threatening misinformation.
The story begins with a review published in Chakado in April, as part of the “Los Desinformantes” project – a series of articles that trace the origins of false narratives. The test followed the narrative that turned chlorine dioxide (or chlorine dioxide, if you prefer) into a “miracle cure” in some circles. It started even before the corona, when chlorine dioxide was marketed as a drug that can cure cancer, malaria and even muscular dystrophy. When the Corona broke out, she too joined the list.
In practice, as a toxicologist explained to Chakado, the chemical does kill viruses, bacteria and cancer cells, but also healthy cells and does so indiscriminately. This makes this “medicine” dangerous. The chemical is not approved for use as a drug by the Argentine equivalent of the FDA (ANMAT), or by any other drug regulator in the world, and deaths have already been recorded in the world due to its taking. In fact, one such case is what led the members of Chakado to look into the matter in the first place.
Chakado tracked down a number of people who marketed chlorine dioxide as a drug. Prominent among them is Andreas Ludwig Kalker, a German by birth, who introduces himself as a doctor of alternative medicine with a degree from a university already accused of selling degrees. On the wonders of chlorine dioxide, and he has done so even in universities.In addition to Calcer, Chakado also introduced the work of Luis Enrique Garcia, who presents himself as a bishop and will be happy to sell you some of his miracle drug by mail; dietitians who will not prescribe it to patients but will sell it through WhatsApp; etc. Because it is not a registered drug, everyone will prescribe you a different dose.
The Argentine police have been investigating Calker for many months, but following Chakado’s investigation, the police summoned the director of the fact.checking organization, Laura Somer, to testify. The investigation and testimony led earlier this month to the indictment not only against Kalker, but also against Garcia (who also had a collection of Nazi symbols) and another 17 people who distributed chlorine dioxide. Police found the chemical in 13 different homes. Authorities reported that the indictments were filed on charges of “selling, distributing and storing” chlorine dioxide, even though ANMAT banned its marketing as a drug.