Twitter, Facebook Remove Trump Post Over False Claim About Children And COVID-19 Both social networks said the president's false claims that children are "almost immune" from COVID-19 violated its policy on coronavirus misinformation.
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Twitter, Facebook Remove Trump Post Over False Claim About Children And COVID-19

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Twitter, Facebook Remove Trump Post Over False Claim About Children And COVID-19

Twitter, Facebook Remove Trump Post Over False Claim About Children And COVID-19

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Something remarkable happened on social media yesterday. It started with President Trump and his campaign sharing an interview he had done on Fox News. Then both Twitter and Facebook stepped in because they say the video broke the company's rules against spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. We've NPR tech correspondent Shannon Bond here to talk about this. Let me first note that Facebook is an NPR financial supporter. Shannon, good morning to you. And just give us a sense for how this all started.

SHANNON BOND, BYLINE: Well, like you said, this was a video clip from a Fox News interview from Wednesday morning. And in it, the president urged schools to reopen, and he falsely claimed that children are, quote, "virtually immune" from COVID-19. Now, of course, that's not true. Research has shown that while children do tend to get infected with the coronavirus less often, they tend to have milder symptoms than adults, kids can still contract it. They can spread it. And some children have gotten seriously ill and even died.

GREENE: All right. Well, given all of that, I mean, what did these companies, Twitter and Facebook, do about this?

BOND: Well, both said, look, we have rules against spreading misinformation about the coronavirus. It's a big issue right now. And they said this video crosses that line. So Facebook just removed the Trump post altogether from his personal page. It said you can't make false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19. And Twitter, it banned the Trump campaign's account from tweeting. The campaign account is who put this video up on Twitter. And Twitter said, if you don't take the video down, you can't tweet.

GREENE: Well, let me just ask you, I mean, broadly. I mean, we know social media plays such a role in life now, including in politics. So what does this tell us about how these platforms might act as we get closer to November and the election?

BOND: Well, I think we have to remember back to 2016 and what happened. Russian hackers used these platforms to spread disinformation, to influence voters. So Facebook, Twitter, they're under a lot of pressure to do better this time. Facebook has really tried to stay hands off when it comes to politics and what politicians post. CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he doesn't want to be the arbiter of truth. But that doesn't mean that anything goes on Facebook. It's taken down other things that the campaign and the president have posted for violating other policies. So it removed Trump campaign ads that used a Nazi symbol. It took down a post by the president with a doctored video. So I think despite Zuckerberg's reluctance, we do occasionally see Facebook acting as kind of a traffic cop and setting some limits.

GREENE: And what about Twitter?

BOND: Well, Twitter has taken a much more aggressive approach than Facebook, especially lately. And it's really cracked down on the president. It's put fact-checks, warning labels on some of his posts. And it also even blocked his son Donald Trump Jr. from tweeting after he broke similar rules about spreading coronavirus misinformation. So, you know, I think we're just going to see kind of more of this stuff happen before the election.

GREENE: And what are we hearing from the Trump campaign about all of this?

BOND: Well, the campaign sent out a public statement saying, look, the president was stating a fact. He was merely saying that children are less susceptible to the disease, even though, to be very clear, that's not exactly what he said on Fox News. The campaign also accused the social media platforms of being biased against conservatives. And that's something we hear from a lot of conservatives. It's not particularly backed up by evidence. But I think, you know, look at just - look at how the Trump campaign reacted yesterday when they were blocked from tweeting. It quickly removed the tweet with this video after it lost those privileges. That's an admission that this campaign really needs Twitter. You know, we know social media in this day and age is already critical to reaching voters. With a pandemic, it's even more clear. This is a campaign going to be fought online.

GREENE: NPR tech correspondent Shannon Bond. Shannon, thanks a lot.

BOND: Thanks.

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