President Trump on Tuesday. Facebook took down the video about four hours after it was uploaded. Doug Mills/The New York Times
President Trump on Tuesday. Facebook took down the video about four hours after it was uploaded. Doug Mills/The New York Times

Facebook removes Trump campaign’s misleading coronavirus video

By Supplied Time of article published Aug 6, 2020

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By Cecilia Kang and Sheera Frenkel

It was the first time Facebook took down a post by Mr. Trump’s campaign for spreading virus misinformation, but it did not signal a change to the company’s defense of free expression.

Facebook took down a video posted by the campaign of President Trump on Wednesday in which he claimed children were immune to the coronavirus, a violation of the social network’s rules against misinformation around the virus.

It was the first time Facebook has removed a post by Mr. Trump’s campaign for spreading misinformation about the coronavirus, though the social network has previously taken down other ads and posts by the campaign for violating other policies. In June, for example, Facebook took down campaign ads that used a Nazi-related symbol, which broke the company’s rules against organized hate.

The action on Wednesday did not signal a change to Facebook’s fierce defense of free expression. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, has said the social network is not an arbiter of truth and that it is in the public’s interest to see what political leaders post — even if they include falsehoods by politicians like Mr. Trump. Mr. Zuckerberg has stood by the position, even as other social media companies like Twitter have ramped up their rule enforcement with regard to the president’s speech.

The stance has put Facebook under tremendous pressure from employees, advertisers and civil-rights leaders, who have opposed permitting Mr. Trump to spread falsehoods around mail-in voting on the site and to allow comments and threatening language around the Black Lives Matter protests to remain up.

The video that Mr. Trump’s campaign posted on Wednesday was of an interview held earlier in the day with Fox News. In the clip, he pressed for the opening of schools this fall, arguing that children were “virtually immune” from the coronavirus. That theory is not supported by most medical experts.

“They’ve got much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this,” Mr. Trump said. “They don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem.”

The video that Mr. Trump’s campaign posted on Wednesday was of an interview held earlier in the day with Fox News. In the clip, he pressed for the opening of schools this fall, arguing that children were “virtually immune” from the coronavirus. That theory is not supported by most medical experts.

“They’ve got much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this,” Mr. Trump said. “They don’t have a problem. They just don’t have a problem.”

Twitter on Wednesday also blocked the Trump campaign’s post with the video, saying it had violated company rules on coronavirus misinformation. The account was barred from posting new tweets until the offending post was removed, a typical procedure, Twitter said. Later Wednesday evening, the video was removed from the Trump campaign account and it had resumed posting.

Facebook created specific rules in April related to not allowing coronavirus misinformation. The policy has been repeatedly tested by Mr. Trump, who has shared videos in which he and others make questionable claims about potential treatments and cures.

The New York Times

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