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Facebook removes Trump post claiming the coronavirus is “less lethal” than the flu

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Twitter left the same post on its site, but hid it under a public interest notice and limited how it could be shared.

US President Donald Trump. Picture: AP Photo, Andrew Harnik

Rachel Lerman, in San Francisco – Facebook removed a post from President Donald Trump on Tuesday that called the coronavirus “far less lethal” than the flu, reinforcing tension between the social media company and the president as the election approaches.

Twitter left the same post on its site, but hid it under a public interest notice and limited how it could be shared.

“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” Trump’s tweet and now-deleted Facebook post reads.

Trump left Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday night, where he was being treated for the coronavirus. Earlier in the day, he posted on social media, “Don’t be afraid of Covid. Don’t let it dominate your life.”

That drew intense criticism online for what many saw as him downplaying the virus that has killed at least 209,000 people in the United States.

Neither Twitter nor Facebook took any action against the Monday post and did not respond to repeated requests for comment asking if it violated their policies against coronavirus misinformation. Both companies have pledged to remove coronavirus misinformation that could lead to physical harm.

Harsher action

Twitter and Facebook have taken harsher action against Trump’s tweets this year. Twitter has labelled several of his tweets for violating its policies, starting with a fact check label in May, and immediately drawing the ire of the president for its decision.

But many experts still criticize the companies for not taking harsher action and say the policies are not being enforced consistently.

“There are more tests coming, this should be easy one,” Mike Ananny, an associate professor at University of Southern California Annenberg tweeted Monday after Twitter left Trump’s post untouched.

Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy said Tuesday that Twitter labeled the president’s tweet about the flu for violating its policies by “making misleading health claims about COVID-19.” Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone confirmed the company had removed the same post.

“We remove incorrect information about the severity of Covid-19, and have now removed this post,” he said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the estimated number of US deaths from the flu has ranged from 12,000 to 61,000 annually since 2010.

Trump seemed to lash out at the social media companies after they took action Tuesday by calling for the repeal of a law that broadly acts as a liability shield to protect the companies for what their users post online.

“REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” the president tweeted just after noon Tuesday. Trump signed an executive order in May, after Twitter started labeling his tweets, that intended to open the door to change the law.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Washington Post