WASHINGTON — Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter account was temporarily suspended for sharing misinformation about COVID-19 after the president’s eldest son posted a video of people touting the drug hydroxychloroquine as an effective treatment.
The Food and Drug Administration last month revoked emergency-use authorization for the anti-malaria drug as a COVID-19 treatment after determining it may have deadly side effects. The World Health Organization also said it would discontinue its own tests of hydroxychloroquine.
After an adviser to Donald Trump Jr. reported the suspension, Twitter issued a statement saying the move was not permanent, but that the tweet “requires deletion because it violates our rules (sharing misinformation on COVID-19), and the account will have limited functionality for 12 hours.”
The video also circulated on Facebook. A spokesman said posts that contained were removed because they contained what the company called false information about cures and treatments for COVID-19.
Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have railed against social media and technology companies, saying that they’re biased against conservatives. On Monday, the president criticized Twitter for automated trends that portray him negatively, saying that its “ridiculous, illegal, and of course, very unfair!”
“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,” Andrew Surabian, a Republican strategist and adviser to the younger Trump said in a statement.
Twitter, Facebook and YouTube removed multiple versions of the video featuring a group calling themselves “America’s Front line Doctors,” making false claims related to the coronavirus. It claims Hydroxychloroquine is a cure for the virus, prompting #HydrochloroquineWorks to be the top Twitter trend, though it is spelled differently and not all tweets using the hashtag agree on the drug’s effectiveness.
Facebook and Twitter have both adopted policies banning misleading information about coronavirus, including unsubstantiated claims about possible cures. Twitter’s policy states the company will remove posts that “directly pose a risk to people’s health or well-being,” and Facebook has a similar policy about removing content that could cause real-world harm.
In March, both companies pointed to those policies when removing videos from Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who promoted hydroxychloroquine as a possible cure for COVID-19.
Late Monday evening, the president retweeted complaints about the video being removed, praised hydroxychloroquine and criticized Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, for contending that the drug isn’t an effective treatment for COVID-19.
One of the president’s retweets, a video of the doctors speaking with the words “COVID has cure. America wake up,” was removed by the social media company, saying the initial tweet violated Twitter rules.
In May, Twitter placed a fact-checking button on one of the president’s tweets that alleged mail-in voting leads to rampant fraud. In the following days, Trump accused technology companies of trying to stifle conservative voices ahead of the 2020 presidential election.