Twitter has once again flagged one of President Trump’s tweets for violating their rules on spreading misinformation about COVID-19. This time it was because of his false and dangerous claim that he is now immune to the coronavirus and can no longer spread it.
In the tweet, he wrote, “A total and complete sign off from White House Doctors yesterday. That means I can’t get it (immune), and can’t give it. Very nice to know!!!” The letter from the doctors he is referring to was issued on Saturday night and does not explicitly say that the president tested negative for the virus.
A short time later, Twitter slapped a warning label on the tweet, which reads:
“This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
This is far from the first time the social media platform has flagged the president’s tweets for violating their rules. These warning labels, which also make it impossible for the tweet to be retweeted, are a fairly toothless rebuke. They’ve also deleted videos and other people’s tweets that the president has shared. Still, the platform has long resisted calls to ban the president entirely from tweeting.
While Twitter has stepped up their corrective actions against the president’s habit of making false claims in recent months, they seem to be doing it out on an uneven basis. For instance, Twitter did not flag several videos Trump posted last week that claimed they now have “a cure” for COVID-19. (There is no known cure, and the drugs Trump was given by doctors at Walter Reed Medical Center are still highly experimental and not available to the general public.)
Facebook, which is also a massive stew of misinformation, has had a similarly haphazard approach to cracking down on the president’s blatant lies. They’ve previously removed posts from his account, but as of publication the president’s post claiming he’s now immune to COVID-19 is still up and getting lots of engagement.
Despite Trump’s claims, the public still knows strikingly little information about his illness. We have yet to be told anything official about when he is believed to have been infected and how severe his illness really was, both of which could impact the length of isolation that’s recommended.
Trump’s condition does appear to be improving, and on Saturday afternoon he spoke publicly for the first time since being released from the hospital, at a rally at the White House. But that does not necessarily mean it’s safe or advisable for him to end his period of isolation. He is scheduled to begin traveling to campaign events again on Monday.
What’s most galling about his Sunday tweet is his claim of immunity to the virus now that he’s been infected. For one thing, scientists do not yet have a complete understanding of how exactly immunity to this virus works or how long it lasts. Reinfections appear to be uncommon at this point, but experts, including Trump’s own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend that those who have had COVID-19 behave as though they are not immune and continue to take precautions such as wearing masks and maintaining social distance.