Facebook on Tuesday removed a post from President Donald Trump that downplayed the dangers of the coronavirus pandemic, a day after he left a hospital while recovering from the virus.
Twitter restricted a similar tweet from Trump, leaving it online but placing it behind a note saying the tweet violated the company’s rules about spreading misleading information.
The posts from Trump compared Covid-19 to the flu, a comparison that medical experts have repeatedly said is unfounded and potentially dangerous because it may cause people not to take the coronavirus seriously.
Trump has been on a collision course with tech companies since the start of the pandemic, as he has repeatedly taken positions that contradict scientific facts. Meanwhile, social media companies, which have generally given the president and other politicians more latitude on nonpandemic subjects, have grown more aggressive in trying to stomp out myths, bad medical advice and other misinformation related to the coronavirus.
After the companies acted, Trump said in another tweet later Tuesday that Congress should repeal part of a 1996 law, known as Section 230, that gives internet companies immunity from certain lawsuits. The law has become a target for conservative politicians who have argued that the companies have a liberal bias.
Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone confirmed that the company had removed Trump's post for violating its rules.
“We remove incorrect information about the severity of COVID-19, and have now removed this post,” Stone said.
Facebook’s rules prohibit posts that have “the potential to contribute to real-world harm” including through “misinformation that contributes to the risk of imminent violence or physical harm.” That includes pandemic-related harm.
Twitter’s rules, likewise, restrict or prohibit “potentially misleading information” about Covid-19. Twitter spokesperson Adrian Zamora confirmed the company had placed a “public interest notice” on Trump’s tweet for “making misleading health claims about COVID-19.” Engagements with the tweet would also be “significantly limited,” Zamora said.
Twitter’s rules allow for keeping up an offending tweet from a government official such as Trump if it would be in the public’s interest to have access to the tweet to respond and hold the official accountable.
Facebook has taken down posts from Trump before for violating the social media network’s guidelines, including in August when Facebook and Twitter removed a video about Covid-19.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.