Facebook has removed a post from Donald Trump’s spread because it spread false information about Covid-19 – the first time the social media giant has taken such drastic action.
The post featured video of Trump falsely claiming that children were “almost immune from Covid-19” during a Fox News appearance. There is no evidence that this is true, although some proof that children generally experience milder symptoms than adults.
Facebook said the “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”.
Nearly taken off Twitter
A few hours later, Twitter temporarily blocked the Trump campaign from tweeting from its account until it removed a post with the same video.
The company said in a statement late on Wednesday the tweet violated its rules against Covid misinformation. When a tweet breaks its rules, Twitter asks users to remove the tweet in questions and bans them from posting anything else until they do.
The removal of the post is a change of tack for Facebook, which has previously opted to label – rather than delete – misleading statements.
Courtney Parella, the deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, responded to Facebook’s takedown with a statement that claimed “the president was stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus.”
“Another day, another display of Silicon Valley’s flagrant bias against this president, where the rules are only enforced in one direction,” it added. “Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth.”
Several studies suggest, but do not prove, that children are less likely to become infected than adults and more likely to have only mild symptoms. But this is not the same as being “virtually immune” to the virus.
A Centres for Disease Control and Prevention study involving 2,500 children published in April found that about one in five infected children were hospitalised compared to one in three adults.
The study lacks complete data on all the cases, but it also suggests that many infected children have no symptoms, which could allow them to spread the virus to others.