Facebook and Twitter have taken action against posts from US President Donald Trump on Tuesday for violating their rules against coronavirus misinformation by suggesting that COVID-19 was like the flu.
Facebook took the post down but not before it was shared about 26,000 times, data from the company’s metric tool CrowdTangle showed.
“We remove incorrect information about the severity of COVID-19,” a company spokesman told Reuters News Agency.
The world’s largest social media company, which exempts politicians from its third-party fact-checking programme, has rarely taken action against posts from the president.
Twitter disabled retweets on a similar tweet from Trump on Tuesday and added a warning label that said it broke its rules on “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19” but that it might be in the public interest for it to remain accessable.
During the 2019-2020 influenza season, the flu was associated with 22,000 deaths in the United States, according to US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates.
Since the first case of coronavirus was recorded in the US at the beginning of this year, more than 210,000 people in the country have died, the world’s highest death toll.
On Monday, Trump told Americans “to get out there” and not fear COVID-19 as he returned to the White House after a three-night stay in hospital where he was treated for a coronavirus infection.
Twitter, which has been using labels to flag tweets with misinformation – including from the president – told Reuters it is currently trying to respond more quickly and more overtly.
Facebook removed a Trump post for coronavirus misinformation for the first time in August. The post included a video in which the president falsely claimed that children were “almost immune” to COVID-19.
REPEAL SECTION 230!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2020
Trump responded to the actions of the social media companies on Twitter, calling for the repeal of Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which protects online platforms from legal action that could result from third-party content.
Trump previously challenged Facebook and Twitter in May with an executive order that called into question Section 230 after the social media companies fact-checked his posts.