The president’s son Donald Trump Jr. was temporarily blocked from tweeting on Tuesday morning after posting a viral video filled with false and deceptive claims about the coronavirus, which has killed more than 148,000 people in the US amid a botched response from the government.
The video swept across Facebook, garnering millions upon millions of views in a short time frame. Facebook has struggled significantly with bad information about the pandemic — and other issues — on its platform. A spokesperson for Facebook said they removed the video on Monday evening for sharing false information. Twitter and YouTube did the same.
The video was initially published by the far-right website Breitbart. It showed a group of people in doctor’s coats pushing false and deceptive claims about the virus, particularly that hydroxychloroquine can cure it and that wearing masks is not necessary.
The group, calling itself America’s Frontline Doctors, is affiliated with the right-wing organization Tea Party Patriots, according to its website.
One doctor in the video, Stella Immanuel, complained in a tweet about the video being taken down, saying God will take down Facebook if it is not restored.
Immanuel, a Houston-based physician, has previously made a slew of bizarre medical claims, including that alien DNA is being used as medicine and that gynecological issues are caused by having sex with witches and demons in your dreams, according to the Daily Beast.
In June, the US Food and Drug Administration revoked its emergency authorization of hydroxychloroquine, warning that it is “unlikely to be effective in treating COVID-19” and can cause “serious cardiac adverse events and other serious side effects.”
On Tuesday, Dr. Anthony Fauci reiterated this warning in a Good Morning America interview.
“The overwhelming prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease,” Fauci said.
Donald Trump Jr., whose Twitter account frequently features hyperpartisan content and distorted information, shared the video on Monday evening. President Donald Trump also retweeted people promoting the video.
For the past several months, the president has pushed hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment — at one point he said he was taking it to prevent getting infected — despite no studies showing its efficacy in preventing COVID-19 and his own government’s warnings about the dangers of the drug. Trump has previously claimed the virus would go away like a “miracle” — and as the death toll rose, he has used the pandemic to divide the nation along partisan lines.
Trump Jr. spokesperson Andrew Surabian tweeted Tuesday morning that his account had been “suspended” for posting the video.
The account, however, was not permanently suspended, according to a Twitter spokesperson.
Instead, the tweet has been removed, and Trump Jr. will have “limited functionality” of his account for 12 hours — meaning he can still view tweets and send DMs, but he can’t tweet until the temporary suspension is up.
In a statement to BuzzFeed News, Surabian claimed Twitter’s action was an attempt to silence “free expression.” Hyperpartisans who spread misinformation on social platforms often say they are being silenced when those platforms — rarely — take action.
The founder of America’s Frontline Doctors, Simone Gold, is a “pro-Trump” doctor who has appeared on Fox News and conservative radio shows, according to the Associated Press.
Additional reporting by Kadia Goba.