President Donald Trump shared a slew of social media posts Monday containing a wildly misleading video about the coronavirus, prompting Facebook, Google, and Twitter all to remove the Trump-amplified misinformation but not until it had been viewed tens of millions of times. The video appears to have been spawned by a Trumpy group called the Tea Party Patriots and was then pushed by the far-right site Breitbart early on Monday. The conspiratorial video boosts some of Trump’s personal faves that, counter to scientific evidence, the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine is a cure for the virus, masks are ineffective, and lockdowns to slow the virus are an unnecessary ruse. While Trump parrots those conspiratorial talking points in the Oval Office, the Rose Garden, and anywhere he pleases from the highest elected office in the land, the companies said the video was removed because it runs afoul of each company’s rules regarding COVID-19 misinformation.
Facebook was the first company to take down the video claiming to be from “America’s Frontline Doctors,” a group that was conjured in the past two weeks. The video shows a handful of people in white lab coats that say they are doctors holding a press conference in front of the Supreme Court. “The clip focused on the testimony of a woman named Stella Immanuel, who received a medical license in Texas last November, according to state records,” the Washington Post reports. “Immanuel says she previously worked as a doctor in Nigeria and also calls herself a ‘Deliverance Minister’ who is ‘God’s battle axe and weapon of war.’ She has given sermons attacking progressive values and promoting conspiracy theories including, in her words, ‘the gay agenda, secular humanism, Illuminati and the demonic new world order.’ Another doctor shown in the video, a noted Trump supporter, called Immanuel a ‘warrior.’ ” In the video, Immanuel claims: “You don’t need a mask,” “we don’t need to be locked down,” and “there is a cure for COVID.” Trump shared the video on his Facebook page Monday. By the time the company had removed it at 9:30 p.m. Monday, it had been viewed 14 million times.
After it had been removed by Facebook, Trump hopped on Twitter and tweeted out clips of the same video to his 84 million followers, while rattling off more than a dozen tweets pushing some of the same messages contained in the video, pushing hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 cure. Google followed Facebook in removing the video, and early Tuesday morning, Twitter followed suit. The company also removed some of Trump’s hydroxychloroquine tweets. Immanuel, the doctor featured in the video, tweeted a threat to Facebook for removing the video. “Hello Facebook put back my profile page and videos up or your computers with start crashing till you do,” she wrote. “You are not bigger that God. I promise you. If my page is not back up face book will be down in Jesus name.”
The coronavirus has killed nearly 150,000 in the U.S so far.