Facebook removed the president’s post, citing a violation of the social network’s policy against COVID-19 misinformation. “We remove incorrect information about the severity of COVID-19, and have now removed this post,” a Facebook rep said in a statement.
Twitter left Trump’s post up but hid it behind a warning label that said, “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
In the posts, Trump wrote, “Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”
It was just the second time Facebook deleted a post by Trump. In August, the company pulled down a video clip the president shared from a Fox News appearance in which he falsely said children are “virtually immune” to the coronavirus.
Trump — even after contracting the coronavirus — has downplayed the threat of the pandemic, telling supporters in a tweet Monday (against which Twitter has taken no action), “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.” More than 210,000 Americans have died from the disease so far. Trump has previously ridiculed wearing protective masks; he has held campaign rallies that failed to enforce social-distancing precautions; and he has promoted unproven and potentially dangerous medical treatments.
Last week, Cornell University researchers released a study finding that media mentions citing Trump in the context of COVID-19 misinformation comprised 37.9% of the overall “misinformation conversation.” The study concluded that Trump has represented the single biggest source of falsehoods spread about the coronavirus pandemic.
Critics of Facebook and Twitter have complained that neither platform does enough to curb misinformation that flows across their networks in general — and that they allow Trump in particular to spread false information. Both companies have taken selective action against Trump’s violating posts. For example, last month Facebook and Twitter both placed warning labels on Trump’s messages suggesting U.S. voters cast mail-in ballots and then also show up in person at local polls to “see whether or not your your Mail In Vote has been Tabulated (Counted)” and, if not, to cast another ballot.
After Facebook and Twitter took action Tuesday against Trump’s false claim about COVID-19, he posted, “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” That’s a reference to Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which shields internet companies from legal liability for content posted on their services. In May, Trump issued an executive order seeking to rescind Section 230 protections for social networks if they “censor” speech.
Three tech CEOs — Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, Alphabet/Google’s Sundar Pichai and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey — are set to testify at a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Section 230 scheduled for Oct. 28.
Pictured above: President Trump walks out of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after receiving treatment for COVID-19 on Monday.