US President Donald Trump is in the centre of talks again after Facebook has deleted his post which claimed that COVID-19 was “less lethal” than the flu. Trump is presently in the White House after spending three days of treatment in the hospital. He had tested positive for COVID-19 last week.
The Potus wrote on his twitter handle 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 then took the matter in their hands and hid the same message behind a warning that stated “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information.” Users hence, have to click past the alert to actually read the tweet.
Andy Stone, the policy communications manager at Facebook had said that they remove any incorrect information about the severity of the infectious virus and hence, have removed Trump’s post. Moreover, according to Johns Hopkins University, even though the exact mortality rate for COVID-19 is difficult to jot down, it is still much higher “possibly 10 times or more,” than most flu strains.
However, the reaction of the President is quite a stunner as he reacted by posting: “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” which is a reference to a law that says social networks are not responsible for any content posted by a user. It however allows the firms to engage in Samaritan blocking – including the removal of various contents which they judge to be violent, offensive, or harassment. Social media companies would even face being sued over the changes and edits of user content they made if the law were to be repealed.
Both Facebook and Twitter have vowed to tackle potentially dangerous misinformation around COVID-19 and this is the second time that Facebook has deleted a post of the Potus. Although Twitter has intervened with Potus’s tweets with deletes and warnings.
This is seen as editorialising by the US President as shortly after Twitter for the first time in May put a warning label on his posts, Trump had signed an executive order to repeal the section. Although the proposal has attracted cross-party support, it was for different reasons.
The Democrats are more interested in curbing the spread of misinformation while the Republicans say that there is a bias against or even outright censorship of conservative views online.
The pressure is already on for Twitter and Facebook to do more to tackle the spread of misinformation relating to the pandemic and the US elections. Now Trump’s comment on the virus stating, “Don’t be afraid of Covid”- will certainly not be welcomed by the social media companies. This has already fuelled many conspiracies online.