Twitter temporarily restricts Donald Trump Jr.’s account over COVID-19 misinformation

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Twitter said on Tuesday it had restricted Donald Trump Jr.’s ability to tweet from his account for 12 hours, after one of his posts violated the social media site’s misinformation policy on COVID-19.

The eldest son of US President Donald Trump had posted a now-deleted tweet on Monday, with a video of doctors talking about the drug hydroxychloroquine.

The video was also taken down by Facebook and Alphabet-owned YouTube after racking up millions of views, for breaking their rules on COVID-19 misinformation.

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President Trump also retweeted posts late on Monday containing a link to the misleading video and accusing Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, and Democrats of suppressing the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat the novel coronavirus.

The tweets, shared by Trump to his 84 million followers, were deleted as part of Twitter’s enforcement actions.

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

A screenshot says that the Tweet was deleted because it violated Twitter rules. (Twitter/ via @DonaldJTrumpJr)
A screenshot says that the Tweet was deleted because it violated Twitter rules. (Twitter/ via @DonaldJTrumpJr)

Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and has worked under six US presidents, said on Tuesday he has “not been misleading the American public under any circumstances.”

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The US Food and Drug Administration last month revoked its emergency-use authorization for hydroxychloroquine to treat COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, after several studies cast doubt on its effectiveness. Trump has regularly promoted the drug and said he has used it himself.

In the misleading video, doctors touted hydroxychloroquine as a cure for COVID-19 and also discounted the need for face masks amid the pandemic. An article by right-wing news site Breitbart News, which posted the video, included a screenshot counting 17 million video views on Facebook before it was taken down.

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“It is beyond the pale for Twitter to silence someone for sharing the views of medical professionals who happen to dissent with their anti-hydroxychloroquine narrative,” said Andy Surabian, a spokesman for the president’s son, after sharing a screenshot that said Twitter had temporarily limited @DonaldJTrumpJr’s ability to tweet, retweet or like content.

“We did not suspend the account. The screenshot shared directly says that Twitter required the Tweet to be deleted because it violated our rules, and that we would limit some account functionality for 12 hours,” a Twitter spokesman told Reuters.

According to its enforcement guidelines, Twitter takes action to put accounts in ‘read-only mode’ when someone violates its rules “in a particularly egregious way, or has repeatedly violated them even after receiving notifications from us.”

In recent months, Twitter has separately taken action on inflammatory or misleading tweets by President Trump, placing warnings over posts it said violated its rules and attaching fact-checking information to his tweets about mail-in ballots.