Why did Twitter suspend Donald Trump Jr and what video did he share?

The president also shared the video, but did not have his account suspended

Adam Smith
Tuesday 28 July 2020 17:04 BST
Donald Trump Jr. warms up a crowd for his father in Phoenix, Arizona
Donald Trump Jr. warms up a crowd for his father in Phoenix, Arizona (AP)

Donald Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., has been temporarily suspended from Twitter.

Twitter suspended the verified account for sharing “misleading and potentially harmful information” about the coronavirus.

“The Tweet is in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy,” a spokesperson said. “The account will be locked until the account owner removes the Tweet.”

The president’s son will be able to use Twitter’s direct messaging service, but will not be able to tweet, like, or retweet.

The president posted tweets containing similar claims. The posts were hidden, but he was able to continue tweeting as normal.

What did Donald Trump Jr. tweet?

Donald Trump Jr. promoted the drug hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the coronavirus.

Hydroxychloroquine is not seen as effective against the coronavirus. Last month, the Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency use authorisation.

Attached to the tweet was a video which argued that people do not need to wear masks and said studies criticising the view of the president on the drug are “fake science”.

“This is a must watch!!! So different from the narrative that everyone is running with” the president’s son tweeted.

Face masks have been made mandatory to wear in shops England. Numerous studies have shown that masks may not stop you catching COVID-19, but will lessen the chance of you passing it on if you are unaware you have the virus.

What does a suspension mean?

Per Twitter’s rules, Donald Trump Jr will have limited functionality on the site over a 12 hour period.

The offending tweet will also require deletion before Donald Trump Jr can return to the site.

Republican strategist Andrew Surabian said that the suspension was a demonstration that Twitter is a “threat to free expression” and that it was “continuing to engage in open election interference”, but the screenshot he shared made explicit that the punishment related to the sharing of misinformation.

Where did the video come from?

The video was published by the right-wing media organisation Breitbart News. In it, a group called “America’s Frontline Doctors” share incorrect information about the coronavirus.

The video was quickly shared on Facebook, YouTube, and other social media platforms. It reportedly gathered around 20 million views publicly.

“Tweets with the video are in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy. We are taking action in line with our policy,” a Twitter spokesperson said.

Twitter’s policy states that content which show “alleged cures for COVID-19, which are not immediately harmful but are known to be ineffective, are not applicable to the COVID-19 context, or are being shared with the intent to mislead others, even if made in jest” will be removed.

On Twitter, the president shared the same tweet. It no longer appears on his account, replaced with a message indicating that it is “no longer available”.

Twitter has repeatedly bent its code of conduct for the president due to the “newsworthiness” of his posts.

It has been criticised for not applying the same measures it applies to other accounts to the president.

How have other social media companies reacted?

Facebook and YouTube have acted against the video, removing it from their platforms.

“We’ve removed this video for sharing false information about cures and treatments for Covid-19”, a Facebook spokesperson said.

The video had been viewed 40,000 times on YouTube before being removed for “violating YouTube's Community Guidelines.”

″From the very beginning of the pandemic, we’ve had clear policies against Covid-19 misinformation and are committed to continue providing timely and helpful information at this critical time,” a spokesperson told CNBC.

Trump signs controversial executive order that could allow federal officials to target Twitter, Facebook and Google

What else has Donald Trump said?

Recently, president Trump said that Twitter’s trending topics were “illegal” because it promoted content that criticised his presidency.

“So disgusting to watch Twitter’s so-called 'Trending', where sooo [sic] many trends are about me, and never a good one,“ Mr Trump tweeted. ”They look for anything they can find, make it as bad as possible, and blow it up, trying to make it trend. Really ridiculous, illegal, and, of course, very unfair!”

Twitter’s algorithm chooses which content appears on its trending page for each user, based on several factors including who they follow, what their interests are, and location information.

It is rarely curated by Twitter employees, except to prevent certain topics that violate Twitter’s rules from trending, such as hateful content based on protected categories such as race, gender, sexual orientation, or religion.

Donald Trump did not offer evidence why Twitter’s trending section would be illegal. Twitter declined to comment on the outburst.

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