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Coronavirus US: why has Facebook removed Trump’s post that compared Covid-19 to flu?

Facebook has deleted a post in which President Donald Trump had claimed Covid-19 was "less lethal" than the flu, but which are the real reasons?

Coronavirus US: why has Facebook removed Trump’s post that compared Covid-19 to flu?

For more than half a year, media reports on coronavirus have helped the public learn more about the health risks and how to protect yourself from the virus. However, the relentless flood of information about Covid-19 has also plunged many into a state of depression and fear. And through social media, those stories whether true or false, are spread quickly and have a deep impact all over the world.

On Tuesday, Facebook deleted a post in which U.S. President Donald Trump had claimed Covid-19 was "less lethal" than flu. The U.S. had "learned to live with" flu season, he wrote. "Just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!”, he added.

Facebook and Twitter take action, medical experts react

“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.

Twitter later hid the message behind a warning of misinformation about coronavirus before users could click to view it. The information was qualified as “spreading misleading and potentially harmful”.

Also the medical community instantly reacted to the posts comparing Covid-19 to flu. Several experts considered the information as unfounded and potentially dangerous, because they may cause people not to take the coronavirus seriously. Warnings which make sense due to the enormous attraction which the president of the most powerful country in the world commands on social media - more than 31.5 million people follow Trump’s Facebook account and he has over 87 million followers on Twitter.

The controversy comes at a time when more than 7.45 million people in the United States have tested positive for Covid-19, and more than 211,300 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Medical experts also informed that the mortality rate for coronavirus is not known, but it is thought to be substantially higher - possibly 10 times or more - than most flu strains.

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Pressure on social media to tackle misinformation

It is also important to understand that pressure has been mounting on Facebook and Twitter to do more to tackle misinformation about the pandemic and the U.S. election. In fact, it is the second time that Facebook has deleted a post from Trump, whereas Twitter has intervened more often with deletions and warnings.

After Twitter and Facebook flagged Trump’s posts, he tweeted “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!”. The U.S. president was referring to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which allows online platforms to moderate and remove harmful content without being penalized.

Since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Trump has had plenty of controversies with tech companies, as he has often taken positions that contradict scientific facts. One of them took place in May, when Twitter added a fact-check label to his tweets for the first time. As a result, Trump signed an executive order targeting the legislation, claiming alleged “censorship” by the platform.

However, there have also been cases where Facebook and Twitter have not gone hand in hand. That is what happened when last summer Trump posted about protestors following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police. Then Twitter placed a label warning users about Trump’s violent rhetoric, while Facebook allowed the post to stay up.