Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US. Picture: AFP/AL DRAGO
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US. Picture: AFP/AL DRAGO

Washington — Twitter said on Tuesday that it had withdrawn a video retweeted by US President Donald Trump in which doctors made allegedly false claims about the coronavirus pandemic, after Facebook took similar action.

“Tweets with the video are in violation of our Covid-19 misinformation policy. We are taking action in line with our policy,” a Twitter spokesperson said, declining to give details on how many people had watched the video.

The video was also removed by Facebook on Monday evening. “We’ve removed this video for sharing false information about cures and treatments for Covid-19,” said Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone. 

The video, which shows a group of doctors claiming masks and lockdowns are not required to halt the disease, had been watched by 14-million people on Facebook before it was removed, according to The Washington Post.

The doctors also backed the use of hydroxychloroquine, an antimalarial drug that has not been proved effective against Covid-19. Shortly after it was removed from Facebook, Trump tweeted several clips of the video to his 84-million followers. The Post said Trump also shared 14 tweets defending the use of hydroxychloroquine.

Twitter has begun acting against tweets by Trump that it says break their rules. In June, the social media platform hid a tweet in which he threatened to use “serious force” against protesters in Washington, saying it broke rules over abusive content.

The latest moves escalate the battle between the White House and social media firms that Trump has accused of bias against conservatives, despite his own large following.

Twitter also said on Tuesday that it limited access to Donald Trump Jr’s account for 12 hours. On Monday, Trump’s eldest son had posted the video of doctors talking about the drug hydroxychloroquine that his father retweeted.

Fauci defends himself

Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top infectious disease expert, who has led the country through multiple health crises for decades, defended his work to protect Americans’ health on Tuesday  after the president retweeted the video.

“I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances,” Fauci told ABC’s Good Morning America show.

Trump retweeted a post accusing Fauci and Democrats of suppressing the use of the drug hydroxychloroquine to treat the coronavirus that included a link to the video of the group discounting the need for face masks amid the pandemic.

The video also falsely called the drug a “cure”, CNN reported.

In June, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked its emergency-use authorisation for hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19, after several studies cast doubt on its effectiveness. Trump has regularly touted the drug and said he has used it himself.

Representatives for the White House could not be immediately reached for comment.

Fauci, who directs the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and has worked under six US presidents, said he does not follow Trump’s tweets. He urged Americans to continue to heed common sense recommendations to help curb the outbreak in the country, in which there are more than 4-million confirmed Covid-19 cases and more than 146,000 deaths linked to the disease.

“There are certain fundamental things we should be doing,” he told ABC, including wearing masks, distancing at least 2m from others, avoiding crowds, closing bars in some areas, and washing hands. “There’s no question about that.”

Fauci, who has led NIAID at the National Institutes of Health since 1984 and earned high marks in public polls, said he backed the FDA’s decision on hydroxychloroquine.

Trump’s posts would not deter his public health work, he said. “I will just continue to do my job no matter what comes out because I think it’s very important. We’re in the middle of a crisis.”

AFP, Reuters

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments?
Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.