Facebook, Twitter block Trump post falsely comparing coronavirus and the flu

US President Donald Trump wears a facemask as he leaves Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland heading to Marine One on October 5, 2020, to return to the White House after being discharged.

Saul Loeb | AFP | Getty Images

Facebook and Twitter on Tuesday took action against a post from President Donald Trump that falsely claimed the seasonal flu is more deadly than the coronavirus. 

Facebook removed the post, and Twitter added a label warning of misinformation about the coronavirus before a user could click to view it. Twitter also prevented the tweet from being shared.

“As is standard with this public interest notice, engagements with the Tweet will be significantly limited,” a Twitter spokesperson told CNBC.

In the post, which was shared on both Facebook and Twitter, Trump said: “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!!!”

As of Tuesday morning, the Covid-19 pandemic has so far sickened more than 7.45 million in the United States, and at least 210,195 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. According to the CDC, an estimated 22,000 people died from the 2019-2020 seasonal flu. The deadliest flu season since 2010 was in 2017-2018, with an estimated 61,000 deaths, according to the CDC.

“We remove incorrect information about the severity of Covid-19, and have now removed this post,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC.

Facebook was first to take action against the post just before 11 a.m. ET. Trump’s post was up for more than three hours before Twitter labeled it. More than 31.5 million people follow Trump’s Facebook account. He has more than 87 million followers on Twitter.

After Twitter and Facebook flagged his posts, Trump tweeted “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!” 

Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act allows online platforms to moderate and remove harmful content without being penalized.

In May, Trump signed an executive order targeting the legislation, claiming alleged “censorship” by the platforms. The order came shortly after Twitter added a fact-check label to his tweets for the first time.

The two social media platforms have sometimes been at odds when it comes to removing posts that violate their respective policies. Earlier this summer, Trump posted about protestors following the death of George Floyd, a Black man, at the hands of police. Twitter placed a label warning users about Trump’s violent rhetoric, while Facebook left the post up entirely. 

Correction: The headline of this story has been updated to reflect that Twitter did not remove Trump’s tweet, but blocked it from being shared and hid it behind a warning label.

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