Facebook Inc has taken down a post by US President Donald Trump, which the company said violated its rules against sharing misinformation about the novel coronavirus.
The post contained a video clip from an interview with Fox & Friends earlier on Wednesday, in which Trump claimed that children are “almost immune” to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
“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 spokesman said.
A tweet containing the video that was posted by the Trump campaign’s @TeamTrump account and shared by the president was also later hidden by Twitter Inc for breaking its COVID-19 misinformation rules.
A Twitter spokesman said the @TeamTrump account owner would be required to remove the tweet before they could tweet again.
The Trump campaign accused the companies of bias against the president, saying Trump had stated a fact.
“Another day, another display of Silicon Valley’s flagrant bias against this president, where the rules are only enforced in one direction,” said Courtney Parella, a spokeswoman with the campaign.
“The president was stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus,” she said in a statement, adding: “Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said while adults make up most of the known COVID-19 cases to date, some children and infants have been sick with the disease and they can also transmit it to others.
An analysis by the World Health Organization (WHO) of six million infections between February 24 and July 12 found that the share of children aged 5-14 years was about 4.6 percent.
But during a briefing at the White House on Wednesday, Trump repeated his claim that the virus had little effect on children.
“Children handle it very well,” he told reporters.
“If you look at the numbers, in terms of mortality, fatalities … for children under a certain age … their immune systems are very very strong and very powerful. They seem to be able to handle it very well and that’s according to every statistical claim.”
How likely children are to contract or spread the coronavirus has become a deeply contentious issue in the US, with reopening schools essential to enabling many parents to go back to work.
Trump has been calling for both businesses and schools to reopen as part of a push to revive the US economy, whose health is a significant factor in the upcoming presidential election.
But a growing number of US school districts have opted against in-person classes come September, choosing to remain online-only until the pandemic has abated.
Facebook’s action against Trump on Wednesday marks the first time it had removed a Trump post for coronavirus misinformation, the company’s spokesman said.
It also appeared to be the first reported instance of the social media company taking down a post from the president for breaching its misinformation rules.
The social media giant had placed a disclaimer last month on a post from Trump claiming mail-in voting would lead to a “corrupt” election, and in June it removed ads by Trump’s campaign containing a symbol used by Nazi Germany.
The company was under intense pressure to clamp down on misinformation – which has flourished during the pandemic – including from world leaders, until recently protected by its hands-off policy on political speech.
Twitter has taken down a post retweeted by Trump pointing to a misleading viral video about the coronavirus, but left up clips of the president suggesting scientists should investigate using light or disinfectant on patients.
Twitter said those remarks expressed a wish for treatment, rather than a literal call for action.
It also left up a March post from Tesla Inc’s outspoken CEO Elon Musk stating “kids are essentially immune” to the virus.