Both Twitter and Facebook have blocked a video shared by accounts linked to US President Donald Trump for violating their policies on coronavirus misinformation.
The Trump re-election campaign’s Twitter account, @TeamTrump, was briefly banned from sending new tweets after it posted a clip of an interview Trump did Wednesday with Fox News in which he said children were “virtually immune” from the Covid-19 coronavirus. “[Children] don’t have a problem, they just don’t have a problem,” Trump said in the video as part of an argument for why schools should reopen. “It doesn’t have an impact on them. I’ve watched some doctors say they’re totally immune.”
Trump posted the same video to his account on Facebook, which removed the clip shortly before Twitter froze the campaign’s account. Both social-media companies have policies that forbid sharing misleading information about the coronavirus that could cause people harm. YouTube also removed the video for violating its misinformation policies, Farshad Shadloo, a spokesman for the Google division, said in an email. While Trump has a smaller audience on YouTube than other social media sites, he posts frequent speeches, campaign ads and TV appearances such as the Fox clip.
Facebook says it is the first time it has removed a Trump post for coronavirus “misinformation” as it included “false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation”.
“My view is that schools should be open,” Trump said during his appearance on Fox and Friends.
“If you look at children, children are almost – and I would almost say definitely – but almost immune from this disease.”
He added that they “just don’t have a problem” and have “much stronger immune systems”.
Scientists believe children are less likely to become infected, and also suffer milder symptoms. Trump campaign spokeswoman Courtney Parella attacked the social media companies and said the president was speaking the truth.
“The president was stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus,” said a statement. “Another day, another display of Silicon Valley’s flagrant bias against this president, where the rules are only enforced in one direction. Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth.”
While children are believed to be less likely to become infected than adults and suffer milder symptoms, “virtually immune” is misleading.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention published a study in April, involving 2,500 children, which found about one in five needed hospital treatment compared with one in three adults.
A global review of dozens of studies also said children’s role in transmission was unclear but that “it seems likely they do not play a significant role”.
“COVID-19 appears to affect children less often, and with less severity, including frequent asymptomatic or subclinical infection,” concluded the study – done in partnership with the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health.
Twitter previously decided a tweet in March by Tesla boss Elon Musk – in which he said “kids are essentially immune” from the virus – did not break its rules and left it up.
Trump later repeated his opinion at a White House briefing on Wednesday – but in slightly less robust terms.
“Children handle it very well,” he told reporters.
In March,Facebook removed adverts from his election campaign for breaking misinformation rules over a national census.
It also took down campaign ads in June that featured a red inverted triangle, a Nazi symbol to identify political prisoners, for violating its hate policy.