Donald Trump, the president of the United States, says half-cocked things, ignorant things, insidious things, threatening things, irresponsible things, outright dangerous things, and demonstrably false things, among a near-constant string of generally awful utterances. Sometimes these words come out of his mouth, other times they are pounded out by his fingers. Either way, they both usually end up on social media where they take flight, traveling to the deepest, darkest reaches of the American psyche. On Wednesday, social media companies Twitter and Facebook forced the removal of a Trump campaign post of a video that fell into the demonstrably false slash irresponsible slash dangerous category. The video clip was of Trump himself speaking during a phone interview with Fox News where he claimed that children were “almost immune” to the coronavirus. “If you look at children, children are almost—and I would almost say definitely—but almost immune from this disease,” the president spouted freely on the Fox & Friends morning show. There is, obviously, no scientific evidence that children are immune.
Trump likely needs schools to reopen in the coming weeks to have any shot at staging a reelection comeback, so you can see which direction his great strategic mind is pointed. While Trump has never let the truth stand in the way of whatever might benefit him at any given moment, as the election approaches, it’s pretty clear that his level of caring about the basic tenets of truth and reality is now zero. As a result, Twitter recently began making some effort to moderate the president’s most vile musings, taking a modicum of responsibility for, at the very least, being the wind beneath Trump’s destructive speech. Facebook, not so much. Mark Zuckerberg has adopted a hands off approach to responsibility, adhering to a market-based system of reality. As such, the site he created has served as a greenhouse for the most noxious and contrived content from the far right.
But even Facebook moved to take down the spurious coronavirus post, the latest in a string of reluctant interventions by the company. Facebook removed a series of Trump campaign ads in June for using Nazi imagery; it also removed a conspiracy theory video shared by Trump’s account that pushed hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus cure. What does the Trump team have to say about the rebuke? “Another day, another display of Silicon Valley’s flagrant bias against this president, where the rules are only enforced in one direction,” Trump campaign spokesperson Courtney Parella said. “Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth.”
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