Twitter, the global microblogging and social networking service, has stopped Donald Trump Jr, the eldest child of US president Donald Trump and his first wife Ivana, from tweeting.
Donald Trump Jr shared a 45-minute video of politically affiliated doctors, America’s Frontline Doctors, promoting the use of hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug, to treat COVID-19, and claiming that face masks were ineffective against coronavirus. Donald Trump himself publicly advocated hydroxychloroquine which he took for a week-and-a-half.
The video, posted online on Monday, was tweeted by the US President and Donald Trump Jr and the news site Breitbart shared it, gathering 14 million views. It went viral and was widely shared by Facebook groups dedicated to anti-vaccination movements and conspiracy theories such as QAnon, racking up tens of millions of views, reported the New York Times.
🔴 REMINDER – July 25, 2020: 62 studies confirm the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. Deafening silence of the Mainstream Medias, unacceptable mediatic lockdown. #Hydroxychloroquine #Hydroxychloroquineworks #Trump #coronavirus #COVID19 #FauciTheFraud https://t.co/tqz6G3leMB
— Biobiobiobio (@biobiobiobior) July 25, 2020
Facebook, Twitter and YouTube worked feverishly to remove the post. Twitter removed it for “sharing false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19” and Google’s YouTube took it down for “explicitly (disputing) the efficacy of local healthy authority recommended guidance on social distancing that may lead others to act against that guidance”. Despite its removal, the video became the latest example of misinformation about the deadly coronavirus that spread widely.
Twitter suspended Donald Trump Jr for 12 hours over an alleged breach of its misinformation rules for sharing the video. His father, the US President, did not face the same action, Twitter said, because Donald Trump retweeted the video rather than posting it himself.
The decisions follow similar takedowns of the video by Facebook and Google’s YouTube, just a day before their respective CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg and Sundar Pichai, testify before Congress.
The hearings are focused on antitrust issues, however Republicans have said they want to discuss whether social media platforms have censored political voices as they face mounting pressure from activists to police their sites more effectively and clamp down on misinformation.
This press conference of doctors had 14 million views on Facebook today. FB took it down shortly after a NYTimes reporter complained. The FB comms person who replied to the NYTImes reporter confirming it was removed used to work for @SenatorBoxer & @dccc. https://t.co/VhABDKN6MX
— Robby Starbuck (@robbystarbuck) July 28, 2020
The website America’s Frontline Doctors was created less than two weeks ago and appears to be affiliated with the conservative Tea Party, known as the Tea Party Patriots, which hosted and promoted the content.
The US President’s tweets have had warning labels added for violating rules on misinformation and hateful speech.
Andy Surabian, a spokesman for Donald Trump Jr, told the BBC the decision had been “beyond the pale”.
“Twitter suspending Don Jr for sharing a viral video of medical professionals discussing their views on hydroxychloroquine is further proof that big tech is intent on killing free expression online, and is another instance of them committing election interference to stifle Republican voices,” he said.
“While there is indeed much disagreement in the medical community about the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine in treating coronavirus, there have been studies reported by mainstream outlets like CNN, suggesting that it may in fact by an effective treatment.
“Those pretending otherwise are lying for political reasons.”