Twitter deleted one of the president’s posts and temporarily blocked his account for publishing the personal details of a journalist, while Facebook deleted one of Trump’s posts for falsely saying flu is more lethal than COVID-19.
It’s been a bizarre week even by Trump standards. After the announcement that both the President and the First Lady tested positive for coronavirus, we witnessed a series of conflicting and confusing accounts, followed by a small parade and a controversial discharge from Walter Reed.
But even this wasn’t the end of it. A barrage of all-caps semi-cryptic tweets followed from the President, including one call to “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” — a law that protects social media companies like Twitter and Facebook from being liable for the content posted on their platforms.
But what triggered a response from social media companies was a false tweet coming from the President, who calimed that the US had “learned to live with” flu season, “just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”
So far, COVID-19 has killed more than the past 5 flu seasons combined, despite unprecedented protection measures that have drastically limited the spread of the virus — and still, there is no end in sight to the pandemic without a vaccine. We don’t know exactly how lethal the novel coronavirus is, but it is much more dangerous than the flu. According to Johns Hopkins University, it could be about 10 times more dangerous, but it’s also more contagious, so it’s hard to say just how much worse it is — but by no means is it less dangerous.
Twitter hid the message and posted a warning about “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information,” while Facebook removed the post altogether. Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone also confirmed that the company removed the post for COVID-19 misinformation.
In a separate incident, the president posted a tweet quoting a New York Post that praised him as an “invincible hero”. The tweet also included the journalist’s personal email, which prompted Twitter to delete the post as sharing other people’s information is prohibited on the platform.
Social media companies have been criticized for taking insufficient action to tackle misinformation, which is doubly concerning as one study has found the President to be the largest source of coronavirus misinformation.
Facebook did announce more stringent measures. The social network announced it will ban all accounts, pages, and groups that represent or promote the QAnon group. QAnon is a sprawling, far-right conspiracy theory with a history of scandalous conspiracy theories not based on actual facts). For instance, QAnon members believe that a cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles running a global child sex-trafficking ring is plotting against President Donald Trump, and that Trump is planning a day of reckoning. Trump has previously praised the group, saying that they “like me very much” and that they “love America.” Meanwhile, the FBI has deemed QAnon a potential domestic terrorist threat.