Facebook and Twitter each took action Wednesday evening against President Donald Trump for violating their respective policies prohibiting Covid-19 misinformation.
Both platforms removed a video featuring a Fox News interview shared by Trump’s accounts in which the president inaccurately stated that children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus.
This was the first time Facebook took action against the veracity of the president’s message, though the company previously removed posts by Trump’s reelection campaign and its paid advertisements featuring Nazi iconography. Facebook said at the time that those posts were in violation of its policy against “organized hate.”
Meanwhile, the video posts on Wednesday included false claims, “which is a violation of our policies around harmful Covid misinformation,” Facebook spokesperson Elana Widmann said in a statement.
Twitter also removed the video from its feeds for violating its rules on Covid-19 misinformation, though the platform has been routinely penalizing Trump and his campaign for violating its rules since late May. While Trump posted the video to his own official account on Facebook, his campaign account @TeamTrump posted the video on Twitter, and was temporarily restricted from posting any other content.
“The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again,” Twitter spokesperson Liz Kelley said in a statement.
The @TeamTrump account has previously violated copyright policies on Twitter, and the Twitter account of Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, was similarly locked after he shared a video with bogus Covid-19-related claims last week.
In a statement, Courtney Parella, the deputy national press secretary for Trump’s reelection campaign, repeated the claim that children were less susceptible to the coronavirus and levied that Twitter was biased. “Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth,” Parella said in the statement.
Fox News Channel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Facebook has been under intense pressure from critics including politicians, civil rights groups and advertisers over its policies against censoring hate speech and misinformation. More than 1,100 companies paused advertising on Facebook properties in July as part of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, organized by the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League among others.
Facebook and Twitter made divergent decisions over Trump’s May 29 post that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” a not-so-veiled threat of violence against those participating in the George Floyd protests in Minneapolis. Twitter, which had fact-checked the president for the first time earlier that week, restricted Trump’s post for “glorifying violence,” while Facebook said the post did not violate site rules. That decision led to public rebuke by employees weeks before the boycott was announced.
In the subsequent weeks, Facebook’s policies have gradually come to resemble, well, those of Twitter. On June 26, Facebook announced it would begin labeling posts from leaders that violated its rules but were still deemed newsworthy.
However, Facebook has shied away from being the “arbiter of truth,” as CEO Mark Zuckerberg has said ad nauseam in recent weeks. The company has been particularly hesitant to fact-check political advertisements, though they said they will ban political ads that “suggest voting is useless or advise people not to vote.”
Whether Wednesday’s decision marks the beginning of a new normal for Facebook remains to be seen, but as the 2020 election nears, there will be more eyes watching Facebook, a company desperate to prove that it can foster healthy political discourse after a tumultuous 2016 election cycle.