Facebook, Twitter remove Trump video for spreading harmful coronavirus misinformation


Facebook’s rules against coronavirus misinformation also apply to politicians.

Image by Pixabay; illustration by CNET

Facebook and Twitter on Wednesday pulled down videos posted on President Donald Trump’s accounts that included a Fox News interview in which the president says children are “almost immune” to the illness caused by the novel coronavirus and have “much stronger immune systems.”

“Children are almost, and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease,” Trump said in the video, posted Wednesday, while he pushes for the reopening of schools this fall. 

Children have been sick with COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the coronavirus, even though adults make up most of the cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Facebook and Twitter both have rules against coronavirus misinformation that could lead to harm, such as claiming a certain group is immune or promoting unproven cures such as drinking bleach. Facebook has been under fire for not sending posts from politicians to fact-checkers. Politicians, though, aren’t exempted from the social network’s rules against coronavirus misinformation. 

“This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19, which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation,” Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said in a statement about the removed Trump video.

A link to the Facebook video post takes you to a page that says “the content isn’t available right now.”

The video was still on Trump’s Twitter account and racked up more than 900,000 views after Facebook pulled it down. A Twitter spokesman said in a statement that the video did violate its rules. Trump shared the video by posting a link to a tweet posted by the account @TeamTrump. The account owner of @TeamTrump was required to remove the video in order to tweet again, a Twitter spokesman said. By late Wednesday afternoon, a link to the video still appeared in Trump’s tweet, but clicking on it led to a screen saying “something went wrong.”

In March, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that kids are “essentially immune” to the coronavirus but Twitter said it didn’t violate its rules after examining the context of the tweet. A Twitter spokesman didn’t immediately respond to questions about why the situation was different. 

Twitter has labeled some of Trump’s tweets that include misinformation about mail-in ballots. The company, though, takes a different approach against coronavirus misinformation. In order for a tweet to get pulled down for that reason, it has to be “an assertion of fact (not an opinion), expressed definitively, and intended to influence others’ behavior,” according to the company

The White House didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment. Twitter didn’t immediately have a comment. Republicans have accused social networks of censoring conservative speech, allegations the companies have repeatedly denied. In May, Trump signed an executive order that aims to curtail legal protections that shield Facebook, Twitter and other online companies from liability for content posted by their users.

Facebook and Twitter have removed harmful coronavirus misinformation posted by politicians before. In March, Facebook and Twitter pulled down videos by Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro for making the false claim that anti-malaria drug hydroxycholoroquine is an effective treatment everywhere. At the time, clinical trials still needed to be conducted.

In July, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube removed a video by right-wing news site Breitbart that included false claims that hydroxychloroquine is “a cure for Covid” and that “you don’t need a mask.” The video had about 20 million views on Facebook and the social network was criticized for not acting quickly enough.

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