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Facebook and Twitter Remove Trump Post Because of False Information About COVID-19 and Children

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Facebook and Twitter Remove Trump Post Because of False Information About COVID-19 and Children

2020-08-06 18:54:23

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Temperature check before school (Image source: Screenshot)

While Donald Trump rails about Chinese social media app TikTok, it's the social networks that are homegrown here in the United States that seem to be giving him the most trouble. On Wednesday both Facebook and Twitter took actions against the Trump campaign for a post that was labeled as coronavirus misinformation.

A post containing a video clip of a Fox News interview that claimed children are "almost immune" from COVID-19 was removed from the Trump campaign's account. Twitter required the campaign to delete a tweet of the same video and blocked the account until it was taken down.

In the video clip in question, Trump can be heard in a phone interview saying schools should open. This has been a bone of contention between him, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, and many parents and school districts across the country.

The president says in the video, "If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely — but almost immune from this disease." He also notes they have stronger immune systems.

This is a switch for Facebook. Its chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, has long-held that his social network should be a place for free speech. In June he was under pressure to remove posts from political leaders that promoted violence or efforts to suppress voting. He agreed then to attach labels on posts that violate Facebook's policies on hate speech and other policies.

Twitter has been more aggressive since the beginning. It has flagged several of Trump's tweets as being misinformation. The president's son, Donald Trump Jr.,  was hit as well. He was blocked from tweeting for 12 hours after braking the social network's coronavirus misinformation rules.

Twitter hid the Trump campaign's post and said that the account wouldn't be allowed to tweet again until the message was deleted yet noted the campaign could appeal the decision. By Wednesday night, the account was active again. The president's personal account re-shared the video, but it was removed once the original tweet was blocked.

Liz Kelley, a Twitter spokeswoman, said the Trump campaign's tweet "is in violation of the Twitter rules on COVID-19 misinformation. The account owner will be required to remove the tweet before they can tweet again."

Facebook spokesman Andy Stone explained, "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."

Because the virus is so new, there has been different information spread, including whether or not children could be affected. However, children of all ages have been infected, have passed the virus to others, and have died from the virus. Additionally, children aren't going to school alone. There are teachers, administrators, janitors, kitchen staff, etc. By keeping schools in operation, it's putting all of the workers at risk.

More than 240,000 children in the United States have been documented as having the virus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is also a rare inflammatory disease children contract from the virus. Three hundred children have caught it.

Some school districts have made the decision to reopen, while others have decided to remain closed. Some that made the decision to reopen were already reporting positive cases the first week back. Georgia's largest school district reported last week that 260 employees had tested positive or been exposed to someone who had.

Facebook has been under pressure to better moderate its site and has faced a boycott from 1,000 advertisers, including Disney and Verizon. Nearly two dozen state attorneys general sent a letter criticizing Facebook on Wednesday. 

After the rioting started in the days following the death of George Floyd, Facebook refused to remove a post from Trump that said, "When the looting starts, the shooting stats," though Twitter placed a warning label on it, drawing the president's ire.

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