Social media platforms back off misinformation crackdown after Trump touts quack cures

Shoop: Beschizza

At The New York Times, Sheera Frenkel and Davey Alba report that Trump's remarks about hydrochloroquine, injecting disinfectant and light therapy have made a sham of Facebook, Twitter and other sites' new policies against spreading medical misinformation. Promotion of quack remedies for Covid-19 has exploded on their platforms more broadly as a result, with little apparent effort to moderate or remove them.

Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have declined to remove Mr. Trump’s statements posted online in video clips and transcriptions of the briefing, saying he did not specifically direct people to pursue the unproven treatments. That has led to a mushrooming of other posts, videos and comments about false virus cures with UV lights and disinfectants that the companies have largely left up.

A New York Times analysis found 768 Facebook groups, 277 Facebook pages, nine Instagram accounts and thousands of tweets pushing UV light therapies that were posted after Mr. Trump’s comments and that remained on the sites as of Wednesday. More than 5,000 other posts, videos and comments promoting disinfectants as a virus cure were also on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube this week.

Twitter has copped to a formal exemption for Trump from their policies, on the rationale that anything he writes is inherently newsworthy. All sense the fear behind the exemption, that it's really about avoiding political and regulatory backlash. Moreover, everyone can see that the "Trump Exception" has a penumbra that covers supporters and propagators who spread (or simply retweet) the word.

I think we all sense that it's not just Trump, too. There's a broader group that will never be shown the door no matter what they do. Elon Musk, for example, will never be banned from Twitter no matter how gross his tweets get. Thinking about the boundaries of this group seems a useful exercise in understanding the "who, whom?" of online media after all this is done.