Facebook and Twitter took on United States President Donald Trump and his campaign on Wednesday, 5 August, by deleting a post in which he claims children are almost immune to the COVID-19 virus.
While Twitter has previously restricted posts by Trump, this is the first time Facebook has taken down a post by Donald Trump’s campaign for spreading coronavirus-related misinformation.
Speaking by telephone with Fox News on Wednesday, Trump argued it was time for all schools nationwide to reopen. "If you look at children, children are almost – and I would almost say definitely – almost immune from this disease,” he told the anchors.
The US public health advise has made it clear that children are also immune to the virus and enjoy no special immunity. The Trump campaign shot back, accusing Facebook of "flagrant bias".
WHY DID FACEBOOK & TWITTER TAKE IT DOWN?
Both, Facebook and Twitter claimed that the video post violated their rules regarding COVID-19 related misinformation.
While Facebook stated that President Trump’s tweet contained “harmful COVID misinformation”, Twitter stated the same reason along with freezing his account.
"The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again, a company spokesperson said.
Facebook, in a statement explained their decision, 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 misinformation,” Andy Stone, a Facebook policy spokesperson said in a statement.
A link to the post now diverts to a page that says, "This Content Isn't Available Right Now (sic)."
"The President was stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus," Courtney Parella, the campaign's deputy national press secretary, said in a statement, PTI reports.
WHY DID TRUMP SAY THAT?
In a telephone interview with the morning show, Fox & Friends, Trump argued it was time for schools to reopen in the United States. He has made similar claims about the coronavirus’ impact on children at other interviews and rallies.
During the interview, he said "so few, they've got stronger, hard to believe, I don't know how you feel about it, but they've got much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this.”
"And they don't have a problem, they just don't have a problem,” he further said.
Trump, who is running for re-election in November, also said of coronavirus: “This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away.”
WHAT ACTION HAVE FACEBOOK & TWITTER PREVIOUSLY TAKEN?
While Twitter has previously hidden a tweet by Donald Trump and has also temporarily suspended a post by his son, Donald Jr, this is the first time Facebook has taken direct action against a content by Trump himself.
On 29 May, Trump, commenting on protests in Minneapolis and civil unrest in the wake of George Floyd's killing by police, had posted "Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!"
Facebook suffered enormous backlash from users, advertisers and the media for allowing the post to stay up on its platform as well as on Instagram. Twitter, on the other hand, hid the message behind a warning label saying that it violated its policy banning the glorification of violence.
Twitter had previously also temporarily suspended Donald Jr’s account for sharing a clip it said promoted "misinformation" about coronavirus and hydroxychloroquine.
In June, Facebook had removed advertisements related to President Trump's re-election campaign that featured a symbol used in Nazi Germany.
The company said the offending ad contained an inverted red triangle similar to that used by the Nazis to label opponents such as communists. Trump's campaign team had responded saying that it was a reference to far-left activist group Antifa which is believed to use the symbol.
ARE CHILDREN LESS SUSCEPTIBLE TO CORONAVIRUS?
America's top infectious diseases expert Dr Anthony Fauci, in a three-hour US Congress hearing on 31 July, undercut US President Donald Trump's claim that children are almost immune to the coronavirus, saying that "hundreds of thousands" of children have been infected.
Fauci's comments about transmission risk in kids came as school-reopening dates draw closer all across the United States and new research around the behaviour of the virus in children points to transmission rates at least similar to adults.
Over 2.2 million US children have been infected with the novel coronavirus and more than 900 children have needed intensive care hospitalization until July 30, according to the public database COVKID Project.
PTI in a report referred to a US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study involving 2,500 children published in April which found that about one in five infected children were hospitalised versus one in three adults.