Facebook and Twitter take down Trump’s false Covid-19 claim

6 Aug 2020

US president Donald Trump. Image: actionsports/Depositphotos

Facebook and Twitter removed a video shared by US president Donald Trump, in which he wrongly claimed that children are ‘almost immune’ to Covid-19.

Over the last few months, there has been a surge in misinformation online relating to the Covid-19 pandemic, while social media platforms have begun taking a stronger stance against misinformation and potentially harmful content.

Now, both Facebook and Twitter have removed a video clip in which US president Donald Trump falsely claimed that children are “almost immune” from Covid-19.

The video clip was published on Twitter by the US president’s campaign account, TeamTrump, and a link to this post was shared from Trump’s own Twitter account. The clip came from a Fox News interview about the reopening of schools in the US.

Twitter temporarily froze the TeamTrump campaign account, saying that the account would have to delete the video in order tweet again.

A spokesperson for Twitter said the video was “in violation of the Twitter rules on Covid-19 misinformation”. The tweets were later deleted and Twitter confirmed that the TeamTrump account could resume activity.

The same video was published on Trump’s Facebook account but was later removed by the social media company.

A spokesperson from Facebook said: “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-19 misinformation.”

Flagging content

This marks the first time that Facebook has taken action to remove Trump’s content under the company’s Covid-19 misinformation policy. Facebook has previously been relatively lenient towards content published by political figures, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg stating that it “wouldn’t be right for us to do fact checks for politicians”.

In May, Facebook refused to take action against a Trump post that suggested threats of military violence against Black Lives Matter demonstrators.

However, the company has recently taken action against Trump ads that used Nazi imagery, a misleading manipulated news video that the president posted on his account, and a four-minute Trump campaign video that was removed due to a copyright complaint.

Twitter, meanwhile, has flagged several of Trump’s posts in recent months. It used a fact-checking feature on some of Trump’s tweets about the upcoming US election, and hid one of his posts about US protests for violating the platform’s rules about “glorifying violence”.

In terms of coronavirus misinformation, Twitter removed a tweet last week that promoted a bogus cure for Covid-19 and had been retweeted by Trump.

Covid-19 and children

Trump’s claims this week that children are “virtually immune” to Covid-19 were met with criticism. The claims arose during discussions about the reopening of schools in the US.

Although cases in younger people are often less serious, children can get Covid-19 and are not immune. A recent study suggested that children under the age of five may carry the virus at higher levels than adults. Chicago-based paediatric infectious diseases expert Dr Taylor Heald-Sargent led the study, published in JAMA Pediatrics.

“The school situation is so complicated – there are many nuances beyond just the scientific one,” Heald-Sargent commented. “But one takeaway from this is that we can’t assume that just because kids aren’t getting sick, or very sick, that they don’t have the virus.”

Some schools in the US have already reopened. In Indiana, the superintendent of Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation said he was “very shocked” that the school had to implement an emergency protocol on the first day of the school’s reopening last week after a student tested positive for Covid-19.

US president Donald Trump. Image: actionsports/Depositphotos

Kelly Earley was a journalist with Silicon Republic