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Facebook has finally taken action against the account of President Donald Trump for spreading coronavirus misinformation, deleting a video in which he said that children are “almost immune” to the disease.
The decision to remove the video posted by Trump comes after Facebook faced months of criticism for failing to censor the U.S. president, who has repeatedly breached its own policies.
The video in question was a clip from an interview Trump conducted with Fox & Friends on Wednesday morning. During the interview, he said:
“If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely — almost immune from this disease.”
Trump’s assertion, which is false, was not challenged by the show’s hosts, but when the clip was posted on Facebook, the social media company took action.
“This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from Covid-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation,” a Facebook spokesperson said.
The video was viewed almost 500,000 times in the four hours before it was taken down, according to data from social media analytics tool CrowdTangle.
While there is evidence that children who contract coronavirus suffer milder symptoms than adults, they are not immune from contracting COVID-19. Some children have become severely ill or died from the disease.
Hours after Facebook took action, Twitter also acted, preventing the campaign account (@TeamTrump) from tweeting until it deleted a post featuring the video clip — which Trump’s main account retweeted.
The @TeamTrump account subsequently deleted the post.
Facebook has previously resisted censoring Trump, maintaining that politicians are held to a different standard than other users. But this position has come under increasing scrutiny in recent weeks, as Trump has used the platform to spread misinformation and make threats against protesters.
The situation came to a head at the end of May, when Trump posted a message threatening Black Lives Matter protesters, quoting a 1960s racist police chief saying: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
While Twitter removed the post, Facebook has left it untouched.
Facebook did remove a Trump campaign ad that featured a symbol historically associated with Nazis, but has previously stopped short of censoring Trump’s own posts until now. But Twitter and Twitch have been more aggressive in their actions, prompting the president’s supporters to once again make the unfounded claim that Silicon Valley is biased against conservative voices.
The Trump campaign echoed this criticism on Wednesday night when it objected to Facebook and Twitter deleting the video. The campaign also misrepresented what the president said during his interview.
“The president was stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus,” Courtney Parella, the deputy national press secretary for the Trump campaign, said in a statement to the BBC. “Another day, another display of Silicon Valley’s flagrant bias against this president, where the rules are only enforced in one direction. Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth.”
The president’s claim that children are immune to coronavirus has been a constant talking point on some of his favorite Fox News shows in recent weeks, particularly during segments related to the reopening of schools, something Trump has also been pushing.
“He regurgitated back to Fox News the same thing he hears on Fox News,” Angelo Carusone, the head of the progressive watchdog Media Matters tweeted. “And now both Facebook and Twitter took the video down for violating [Terms of Service]. Fox News is the problem.”
Cover: President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)