President Trump clashes with social media companies continued this week, this time over sharing COVID-19 misinformation. Both the president and his son, Donald Trump Jr., shared a viral video endorsing hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the virus. The video gained thousands of views but has since been taken down by YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Now, reps for Trump Jr. are speaking out as Twitter temporarily suspends his account.
Pushing a Cure for COVID
The Washington Post reports that the president retweeted the video, featuring a doctor passionately endorsing hydroxychloroquine as the “cure” for COVID-19, on Monday night, July 27. He also shared the video to his Facebook page, which has been “liked” by 28 million users. Around this same time, his son uploaded the video directly to his own Twitter feed.
In the controversial footage, Dr. Stella Immanuel, a physician from Houston, Texas, claims to have treated hundreds of COVID-19 patients with hydroxychloroquine, none of whom ended up dying.
“The virus has a cure, it’s called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax,” Immanuel said in the clip. “You don’t need masks, there is a cure.”
The claims in the video, published by right-wing news outlet Breitbart, contradict the opinions of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Dr. Anthony Fauci, who have said that the drug is not proven to be an effective treatment.
“The scientific data is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy for it,” Fauci told CNN in May, noting the likelihood of “adverse events with regard to cardiovascular.”
Meanwhile, an April study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that patients treated with the drug had a 27.8% death rate, versus 11.4% in those who weren’t.
The viral upload of the video has since been removed from YouTube, who told CBS News it “[violated] our COVID-19 misinformation policies.” However, the outlet reports that copies of the video are being reposted across the web.
Twitter Suspends Trump Jr. Account
Facebook and Twitter also took action to remove posts containing the video — including those of the president and his son. Twitter has temporarily suspended the account of Donald Trump Jr., whose tweet they said “[spread] misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19,” according to CNBC.
Meanwhile, the company removed the president’s retweets of the video, but did not suspend his account. A company spokesperson clarified that, since only Trump Jr. had uploaded the video directly, the president’s account was not penalized, according to CNN Business.
This account has not been permanently suspended. Per the screenshot, the Tweet requires deletion because it violates our rules (sharing misinformation on COVID-19), and the account will have limited functionality for 12 hours. More in our rules: https://t.co/0wHWVV5QS4 https://t.co/0gq7rlaNw7— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) July 28, 2020
In a statement to CNBC, Trump Jr. spokesperson Andy Surabian claimed that the suspension was part of an effort to silence conservatives on social media.
“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.
However, a Twitter spokesperson maintained that “[t]weets with the video are in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy.”
Meanwhile, the doctor in the video, Stella Immanuel, has decried the decision by social media to remove her videos.
Hello Facebook put back my profile page and videos up or your computers with start crashing till you do. You are not bigger that God. I promise you. If my page is not back up face book will be down in Jesus name.— Stella Immanuel MD (@stella_immanuel) July 28, 2020
“Hello Facebook put back my profile and videos up or your computers with start crashing till you do,” Dr. Immanuel said in a tweet from Monday, July 27. “You are not bigger that God. I promise you. If my page is not back up face book will be down in Jesus name.”
Twitter Suspends Trump Account — Sources
CNN – “Fauci: Science shows hydroxychloroquine is not effective as a coronavirus treatment”
CNN – “Study finds no benefit, higher death rate in patients taking hydroxychloroquine for Covid-19”