UPDATED: Facebook removed a video posted by Donald Trump’s campaign because it violated the social network’s policy banning false claims about the coronavirus. The content in question was a video clip of a Trump interview on Fox News Channel on Wednesday, uploaded by the Trump campaign, in which he claimed children are “virtually immune” to COVID-19.
“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,” a Facebook rep said in a statement.
Twitter later on Wednesday evening took down the same video, posted by Trump’s 2020 re-election campaign and tweeted by the president. The company said it had suspended the @TeamTrump account — preventing it from tweeting, retweeting or liking posts — pending removal of the violating tweet.
The tweet “is in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation,” a Twitter spokeswoman said. “The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again.” In this case, the account owner is @TeamTrump, which originally posted the video.
In the excerpt from the “Fox & Friends” interview in the now-deleted posts, Trump said, “My view is the schools should open. This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away. And my view is that schools should be open. If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say, definitely — but almost immune from this disease. So few, they’ve got stronger, hard to believe, I don’t know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this… They don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem… They are virtually immune from this problem.”
It is untrue that children are “almost immune” or “virtually immune” to COVD-19, according to medical experts. Kids have tended to become less sick when infected with coronavirus, but even if they show no symptoms they may still transmit the virus to others.
“Children of all ages can become ill with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19),” the Mayo Clinic says on its website. However, the Mayo Clinic notes, very few children have died from the disease and most kids who are infected “typically don’t become as sick as adults and some might not show any symptoms at all.”
Facebook’s removal of the Trump campaign post Wednesday was the first time the social giant had taken action to remove content posted by the president based on its coronavirus-misinformation policy. In April, Facebook adopted a policy specifically aimed at “stopping the spread of misinformation and harmful content about COVID-19 on our apps.”
White House spokeswoman Courtney Parella said in a statement, “The president was stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus,” although what Trump actually said — that kids are “virtually immune” or “almost immune” to the virus — is false. The rep also said, “Another day, another display of Silicon Valley’s flagrant bias against this president, where the rules are only enforced in one direction. Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth.”
Separately, Facebook last month pulled Trump 2020 campaign ads with Nazi symbols from the service for violating its policy banning “organized hate.” The inverted red triangle in the Trump ads was a Nazi symbol designating political prisoners in World War II concentration camps. In March, Facebook pulled Trump re-election ads that were misleadingly designed to look as if they were part of the official 2020 U.S. Census. Facebook also has pulled Trump posts over copyright violations, as has Twitter.
Meanwhile, Facebook said late last month it would start adding warning labels to content posted by politicians that would otherwise violate its policies in the event it is deemed to be in the “public interest,” according to CEO Mark Zuckerberg. That’s the same approach Twitter adopted in June 2019.
However, Zuckerberg emphasized in a blog post that there’s “no newsworthiness exemption to content that incites violence or suppresses voting. Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down.” Evidently, Facebook’s policy on this area extends to COVID-19 misinformation as well.
Two months ago, Zuckerberg faced a backlash both inside and outside the company for not taking any action against Trump’s May 29 comment, posted on Facebook and Instagram, in which he said about Minneapolis protests and civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd’s killing by police, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Twitter hid the same “looting and shooting” message, which has a loaded racist history, behind a warning label saying that violated its policy banning the glorification of violence.