Remember the days when we didn’t have a president with an unhealthy social media obsession? Or a president who wasn’t actively endangering those around him with a deadly disease? Those were the days, huh?
Unfortunately, that’s no longer our reality. Instead, we have President Donald Trump, whose Twitter fingers seem to have been particularly triggered since contracting coronavirus. He’s been prolific on the social media site since his disturbingly early release from Walter Reed Medical Center, and surprise: he’s using the site for fear mongering and misinformation.
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Ostensibly still contagious with COVID-19 and pumped full of experimental drugs, Trump sent out tweet after tweet downplaying the virus by saying he was fine, even telling people not to be afraid of it. A pandemic that’s killed over 211,000 people.
In one especially worrisome message conflating the coronavirus with the seasonal flu, he wrote:
[CONTENT WARNING for flat-out misinformation!]
“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 populations far less lethal!!!”
This isn’t the first time Trump has fallen back on this talking point — it was something he liked to say early on in the crisis, too. But like most statements from the President, there are a number of things upsettingly wrong about this tweet. First, he’s greatly exaggerated the number of average flu deaths; plus, Dr. Anthony Fauci has said that COVID is 10 times as lethal than the flu. This kind of false information will almost certainly put Americans in danger.
(And don’t mistake Trump’s bravado for pure ignorance: remember, he’s known the truth about coronavirus’ impact for a LONG time, and he’s been purposely downplaying the dangers from the start.)
Something rare happened to this particular falsehood, though: it was actually flagged for violating the platform’s rules. Both Facebook and Twitter censored the statement! FB straight up deleted it, and in Twitter’s case, the tweet is still available to view, but with a content warning about “misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.”
Predictably, this censorship incensed Trump, who then tweeted:
“REPEAL SECTION 230!”
His tweet referred to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which states:
“No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider.”
Basically, this means that social media sites can’t be held legally responsible for what its users might say. For instance, if your weird uncle posted a conspiracy theory about Betty White running a heroin cartel, Betty couldn’t sue Facebook for millions in libel.
Trump and his band of lying cronies have attempted to spin this as a free speech issue — but in reality, without Section 230, his account probably would have been deleted long ago for being a HUGE liability. Let’s be real, his account has been nothing but misinformation from the start (e.g. Birtherism), and there’s no way Twitter would want to take responsibility for that.
So why would Trump want to repeal Section 230? Wouldn’t he have the most to lose (besides the social media companies themselves, which would probably have to fold due to legal vulnerability)??
Related: Chris Cuomo SLAMS Trump’s ‘Bull S**t’ Coronavirus ‘Propaganda’ Video
Well, it kinda sounds like he thinks he would be able to take legal action against companies for censoring him. But considering how his misinformation is literally getting people killed right now, he’d only be ensuring the swift deletion of his accounts.
In any case, we think Section 230 is probably safe from Trump’s wrath for now. Based on his feed, it doesn’t seem like he’s staying focused on one topic for very long, and for now holding COVID relief legislation hostage in a fascistic attempt to win the election seems to be keeping him occupied.
Just another great day under the Trump administration! If you haven’t gotten your daily reminder yet: remember to vote!
[Image via WENN/Instar]