Social media giants Twitter and Facebook, reportedly facing mounting demands to address misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic being shared on their platforms, have taken action against pages representing the re-election campaign for U.S. President Donald Trump. Team Trump reportedly shared a video (now inactive) that claimed children were "almost immune" to COVID-19, and earlier today, Facebook reportedly removed the post entirely. Twitter has apparently gone a step further, temporarily suspending Team Trump's account in accordance with their policy on lies and misinformation about the pandemic. In the past, Twitter has resisted taking almost any significant actions against President Trump's personal account, arguing that even when he seemingly violated their terms of service, his account would not be suspended because it was in the public interest to share the tweets of the U.S. President. While Trump retweeted the campaign tweet in question, it did not originate from his personal account.
The Washington Post reports that advertisers have been pressuring, or even boycotting, Twitter due to what is perceived as a lack of action -- not just against President Trump, but against all manner of misinformation about the pandemic and upcoming U.S. elections. During the 2016 Presidential election, Americans were deluged by false news stories that ran on Facebook and Twitter, some of which were placed there by foreign agents looking to sow discontent in the United States. Both Facebook and Twitter promised in 2017 that they would do a better job of trying to manage false and malicious posts about the election from political campaigns and other well-funded organizations in 2020.
Unlike previous controversies, when Trump has retweeted a video or a news link from his personal account, and then deleted it because he did not realize that the source wasn't credible or that it contained racist or violent messaging, the speaker in this video was Trump himself. The clip came from a Fox News interview in which Trump made the claim.
The notion that children are largely immune to COVID-19 is not a new one, and while scientists do not think it's true, it is not outside of the realm of widely-accepted coronavirus theories. Since the virus is so new, little concrete information is yet known about it, and each new theory sets off a new round of news stories and speculation. Until fairly recently, the idea that most children were unlikely to contract the virus was a widely held belief. While it does appear that children are less likely to be infected, or to be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, than other parts of the population, the notion that they are immune is not true.
Last week, it was reported that Camp High Harbor, a YMCA-affiliated summer camp in Georgia, closed after hundreds of kids tested positive for COVID-19 after attending. Critics of President Trump's aggressive back-to-school policies have used the camp as an example of a potential disaster in the making if American kids, teachers, and support staff go back to school too soon. Despite vocal disputes over the use of facial coverings and stay-at-home orders, polls have consistently shown that most Americans want to see a more comprehensive federal plan to address the COVID-19 pandemic, even if it means slowing the full reopening of the economy.
Twitter spokeswoman Liz Kelley said the tweet "is in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation. The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again."
As of this writing, the Team Trump account appears to have deleted the tweet, but the President's retweet of the now-dead link remains in place. Trump has not yet responded to the posts being removed by Facebook and Twitter.