Twitter set an “interesting precedent” when the platform temporarily suspended Donald Trump Jr.’s account for posting a video that made false statements about the COVID-19 pandemic, experts tell The Inquisitr.
As reported by The Inquisitr, on Tuesday, the president’s eldest son posted a video that purported to show several doctors standing in front of the Supreme Court building, claiming that neither face masks nor social distancing is necessary to slow the spread of the pandemic, and that a cure already exists for the disease that has killed 150,000 people in the U.S.
That cure was hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malarial drug that the Trump administration has continually touted as a cure for the disease, even though the medical community says otherwise.
Twitter later pulled the video and limited Trump Jr.’s account’s functionality for 12 hours, for violating its rules about spreading misinformation about the coronavirus pandemic.
Consultant Daniel Foley told The Inquisitr that social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and others are walking a fine line between allowing free speech while at the same time dealing with the spread of opinions, presented as fact, that can be damaging.
“Twitter taking an active stance on controlling ‘fake news’ and hate speech has set an interesting precedent on websites which are supposed to be open to discussion and communication, but could impact decisions other social sites are making with taking more control of what is being posted,” Foley said.
Foley also noted that many people primarily get their news by following links posted on social media. As such, the platforms have a responsibility to, at the very least, have a fact-checking system in place to make sure that the content the users are receiving is factual.
Andrew Selepak, a professor of mass communications at the University of Florida, noted that Twitter’s temporary restriction of Trump Jr.’s account comes as the platform removed thousands of accounts affiliated with the conspiracy theory QAnon. Doing so just gives further ammunition to conservatives who believe that social media is engaged in a broad attempt to silence them, Selepak said.
“Conservatives and Republicans will see these actions as Twitter trying to suppress free speech from those on the right. This will just feed into the already existing conspiracy theories promoted by groups like QAnon that social media, and Twitter specifically, want to limit free speech from conservatives.”
In a broader sense, Michael Scott, a professional keynote marketing speaker, notes that a decades-old law that protects social media platforms from liability for what their users post may not go far enough in the current day and age.
Specifically, Scott notes that the law is based in the U.S., which means that the platforms could be exposed to liability in other countries if they fail to properly police their users for spreading misinformation.
Secondly, he noted that both the left and the right are calling for more regulation of social media, something the companies absolutely do not want. Although both sides have different reasons for wanting the law changed.
“The left fears electoral manipulation. The right fears electoral bias,” Scott told The Inquisitr.