Twitter, Facebook Sanction President Trump’s Misleading Covid-19 Posts

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After he leaves hospital, Twitter and Facebook take action against ‘Coronavirus misinformation’ posts by US President Trump

US President Donald Trump continues to clash with social networking giants Twitter and Facebook, after they took action over another controversial post he made.

President Trump checked himself of hospital this week, and is now back at the White House after having tested positive for Coronavirus at the weekend.

The US President took the decision despite reportedly still showing symptoms of Covid-19, and he that Coronavirus was just like the flu.

Controversial post

Both Twitter and Facebook took action after President Trump posted that the US had “learned to live with” flu season, “just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”

Twitter only hid the message behind a warning label that stated the tweet had been hidden because of “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information.”

However it added that it might be in the public interest for it to remain accessible, so just hid it behind the warning.

But Facebook, which exempts politicians from its fact-checking program and is usually more reticent about sanctioning President Trump’s controversial postings, went one step further and deleted it altogether, but not before it had been shared 26,000 times.

“We remove incorrect information about the severity of Covid-19,” a Facebook spokesman told Reuters.

Facebook had for the first time removed a post by President Trump back in August. That post included a video in which the US president falsely claimed that children were “almost immune” to Covid-19.

Facebook in July this year began to label political posts by President Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden.

The United States has seen 211,000 people die from Coronavirus as of 6 October 2020.

In comparison, during the 2019-2020 influenza season, the flu was associated with 22,000 deaths in the United States, according to the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Trump reaction

But the US President has not taken kindly to the actions of Twitter and Facebook.

Trump responded by tweeting “Repeal Section 230!!!”.

It should be noted that President Trump has been clashing with social networking firms since May this year, when a dispute erupted between Trump and Twitter.

It began when Twitter had placed fact-checking labels on a couple of his tweets for the first time in late May, when President Trump made unsubstantiated claims that postal voting would lead to widespread fraud.

Twitter then also hid tweets from Trump and the official White House account when they tweeted that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. It hid those tweets saying they were “glorifying violence”.

Twitter also reacted when Trump tweeted about US protesters and he threatened “serious force” against them in the American capital city.

In response Trump signed an executive order against social networking firms, that seeks to “remove or change” a provision of a law known as section 230 that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users.

Vital protection

This is a vital piece of legislation, as it stops companies such as Facebook and Twitter from being liable for the things people post.

Section 230 classifies these firms as a ‘platform’, rather than ‘publisher’ of people’s posts.

Removing the Section 230 protection would essentially render Mark Zuckerberg and Jack Dorsey responsible any libelous content posted on their platforms.

This would mean a dramatic change in how these companies allow people’s posts and tweets to be published.

It could even entail a lengthy period in which a potential post or tweet goes through a moderation process.

Posting or tweeting would not be possible in real-time due to the sheer scale of content, even for the most powerful artificial intelligence systems.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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