- Twitter and Facebook have both removed a video of President Trump where he said children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus for violating their rules about spreading COVID-19 misinformation.
- The video was posted to Trump’s personal page on Facebook, and it marks the first time the company has removed a post by Trump because it shared misinformation about the coronavirus.
- On Twitter, the video was shared by Trump’s campaign, though he tweeted a link to that post on his personal account. Twitter temporarily froze the campaign account until it deleted the tweet.
- Trump and his campaign responded by doubling down on the claims, and arguing the move amounted to censorship.
Trump Makes False Claim About COVID-19 Immunity
Twitter and Facebook both took down a video of President Donald Trump Wednesday where he argued that schools should be reopened by falsely claiming that children are “almost immune” to the coronavirus.
The video in question came from a clip of remarks the president made during an interview on Fox and Friends earlier in the day.
“My view is the schools should open,” he said. “This thing’s going away. It will go away like things go away.”
“If you look at children, children are almost— and I would almost say definitely— but almost immune from this disease,” he continued. “I don’t know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this.”
“They just don’t have a problem.”
Children are not immune to the coronavirus. While studies have shown that children are at less of a risk than adults, experts have said the word “immunity” is not correct in this context.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 240,000 children in the U.S. have been documented as testing positive for the coronavirus.
Additionally, around 300 children have also contracted a rare inflammatory disease as a result of COVID-19 called a multisystem inflammatory syndrome, which has killed six children.
Facebook and Twitter Remove Post
Shortly after his interview on Fox and Friends, Trump shared a clip of his comments on his Facebook account. About four hours after the video was shared, Facebook took it down.
“This video includes false claims that a group of people is immune from COVID-19 which is a violation of our policies around harmful COVID misinformation,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
A Facebook representative later confirmed that it is the first post by Trump the platform removed because it contained coronavirus misinformation.
The decision represents a significant change for Facebook, which has long been criticized for its hands-off approach when it comes to certain content shared by Trump.
Recently, the platform has ramped up its efforts in this area. Back in June, Facebook removed another post from Trump that showed a CNN video of a Black toddler running away from a white toddler with the fake headline: “Terrified Toddler Runs From Racist Baby.”
While some said that the clip was considered manipulated media, a spokesperson the video was taken down because of a copyright complaint.
Later that month, Facebook removed both posts and ads Trump’s campaign shared that showed an inverted red triangle— a symbol that was used by Nazis to mark political rivals. The company said the posts violated its rules against organized hate.
Twitter, for its part, has taken a more aggressive approach. In recent weeks, it has flagged multiple tweets posted by Trump as misinformation. Last month, the platform even blocked Donald Trump Jr. from tweeting for 12 hours after he broke their rules on sharing coronavirus misinformation.
On Twitter, Trump’s campaign account also posted the same video clip from the interview, and shortly after Facebook removed Trump’s post, a Twitter spokesperson told the media that the tweet “is in violation of the Twitter Rules on COVID-19 misinformation. The account owner will be required to remove the Tweet before they can Tweet again.”
Notably, Trump also shared a link to that tweet on his personal account, and as a result, that statement led to some confusion as to which account was frozen, which lead some outlets like The Washington Post and Mashable to report that Trump’s personal account had been blocked from tweeting.
In a later statement to Mashable, a Twitter spokesperson clarified that only the Trump campaign account had been temporarily banned, and when asked if Twitter would have blocked Trump’s personal account had he shared the video, the spokesperson declined to answer.
Both the original post and Trump’s personal tweet sharing the link to that post have been deleted, and Trump’s campaign account resumed tweeting Wednesday night after it took down the tweet as requested.
Trump & Team Respond
In a statement Wednesday, a Trump campaign spokesperson defended the post and tried to downplay the false claims.
“The President was stating a fact that children are less susceptible to the coronavirus,” the spokesperson said. “Another day, another display of Silicon Valley’s flagrant bias against this President, where the rules are only enforced in one direction. Social media companies are not the arbiters of truth.”
Trump himself also doubled down on his claims about children and COVID-19 immunity during a press conference later on Wednesday.
“I’m talking about from getting very sick. If you look at children, I mean, they’re able to throw it off very easily,” he said. “But for whatever reason, the China virus, children handle it very well. And they may get it, but they get it and it doesn’t have much of an impact on them.”
“If you look at the numbers, the numbers in terms of mortality fatality, the numbers for children under a certain age, meaning young,” he added. “Their immune systems are very, very strong. They’re very powerful. They seem to be able to handle it very well, and that’s according to every statistic.”
During an interview on Fox News Thursday morning, Trump also said the actions of Twitter and Facebook amounted to censorship.
“They’re doing anybody, on the right, anybody, any Republican, any conservative Republican is censored and look at the horrible things they say on the left,” he said.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Business Insider)
Trump Refuses to Denounce White Supremacy During Debate
- When asked in Tuesday’s presidential debate if he would agree to denounce white supremacist groups and tell them to stand down, President Trump said he would, but when asked to explicitly say the words, he addressed only the far-right group the Proud Boys, and told them to “stand back and stand by.”
- Many people criticized Trump for not condemning white supremacist groups, others also slammed him for seeming to issue a call to arms for the Proud Boys.
- Organizations that track online extremism said the group embraced the “stand back and stand by” quote as a slogan, and some members took to social media sites to praise Trump’s remarks.
- Trump also attempted to shift the focus to unrest caused by left-wing groups and falsely claimed that they caused more violence than right-wing groups, a claim that is contrary to the evidence presented by high-level members of his own administration.
Trump Asked to Denounce White Supremacist Groups
President Donald Trump refused to directly denounce white supremacist groups when asked to do so in the contentious first presidential debate Tuesday night, sparking condemnation from critics and cheers from members of certain white nationalist-tied groups.
“Are you willing tonight to condemn white supremacists and militia groups and to say that they need to stand down and not add to the violence in a number of these cities as we saw in Kenosha and as we’ve seen in Portland?” Fox News Sunday host and debate moderator Chris Wallace asked the president.
“Sure, I’m willing to do that,” Trump responded. “I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing not from the right wing […] I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”
“Well, then do it, sir,” Wallace implored.
“What do you want to call them?” Trump asked. “Give me a name, give me a name, go ahead who do you want me to condemn,”
“White supremacist and right-wing militia, proud boys,” Wallace responded, singling out the all-male white supremacist-tied group that has been known for engaging in and promoting violence.
“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” the president responded. “But I’ll tell you what somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not a right wing problem this is a left wing.”
That moment and the response from the president has been described as one of the most significant moments of the night because while Trump said “sure” when asked if he would condemn white supremacist groups, when asked actually do so, he refused.
Even in telling the Proud Boys to stand down, he also told them to “stand by,” a refrain that alarmed many people who believed it sounded as though the president was signaling to members of the group to be ready for something.
“When Trump says: ‘Proud Boys – stand back and stand by’ – he is signalling that he considers them a private army waiting for his command to take to the streets if the result is not to his liking. That is very frightening,” writer Katy Brand tweeted.
“I still can’t get over the fact that Trump was told to condemn violent white supremacists, and all he could eek out was to tell the Proud Boys to ‘stand by’— effectively a call to arms,” political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen also wrote on twitter.
Many others also took aim more specifically at the president’s refusal to condemn white supremacists.
“He was given the opportunity multiple times to condemn white supremacy and he gave a wink and a nod to a racist nazi muerderous organization that is now celebrating online, that is now saying we have a go ahead,” attorney and commentator Van Jones told CNN.
However, in a separate interview with CNN, former Senator Rick Santorum seemed to defend Trump for refusing to denounce white supremacist groups.
“He was asking the president to do something he knows the president doesn’t like to do, which is say something bad about people who support him,” he said, though in a later appearance on another CNN program, he said Trump made a huge mistake by not condemning white supremacy.
As far as the official response from Trump’s team, when White House communications director Alyssa Farah was asked to clarify the president’s comments on Fox News, she said she did not think there was anything to clarify.
“He’s told them to stand back,” she said. “This president has surged federal resources when violent crime warrants it in cities. He’s leading.”
Proud Boys Respond
According to SITE Intel Group, which tracks online extremism, the Proud Boys embraced the “stand back and stand by” quote as a slogan. Some also took to social media sites like Parler, which is known for its large pro-Trump user base, to celebrate Trump’s words.
“Trump basically said to go fuck [protesters] up! this makes me so happy,” one prominent ally wrote on the platform, seemingly in regards to Trump’s remarks about antifa.
While Trump’s comments about antifa took up less focus, it is important to note that his attempts to deflect questions about right-wing groups contained multiple falsehoods that have been contradicted by people within his own administration and the intelligence community.
Despite the president’s claims that almost all the violence he sees is from the left, earlier this month, his own FBI director, Christopher Wray, said that “racially motivated violent extremism,” most of which has come from white supremacists, composes the majority of domestic terrorism threats.
Separately, just days after that, Acting Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Kenneth Cuccinelli said that “when white supremacists act as terrorists, more people per incident are killed.”
Additionally, DHS also pointed to white extremism as a primary threat in a domestic terrorism assessment published last year.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (BBC) (Business Insider)
Trump and Biden Spar Over Voting Security at First Debate
- In the final round of Tuesday’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden addressed concerns over election security and voter fraud.
- As Biden correctly noted, top officials at the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI have said that there is no evidence of widespread mail-in voter fraud.
- Trump later claimed that mailmen in West Virginia are selling ballots. According to state officials, this is not true.
- While Biden promised that he would not declare victory on election night, Trump did not make any such promises when asked by moderator Chris Wallace.
Election Security Concerns
During the final leg of Tuesday night’s presidential debate, President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden sparred over the topic of election security in the face of widespread mail-in voting.
Here are some fact-checked claims made by both candidates.
Biden: No Evidence That Mail-In Voting Leads to Cheating
At the start of the sixth and final round of the debate, Biden said of Trump: “His own Homeland Security director, and as well as the FBI director, says that there is no evidence at all that mail-in ballots are a source of being manipulated and cheating.”
“They said that. The fact is that there are going to be millions of people because of COVID that are going to be voting by mail-in ballots like he does, by the way.”
While Biden does seem to confuse “homeland security director” with the DHS cybersecurity director, the gist of this claim is mostly true.
A few weeks ago, that director, Christopher Krebs, told CBS News that mail-in voting systems are resilient and secure because they create paper trails that can be audited.
Biden also referenced testimony given by FBI Director Christopher Wray, who last week, said that the U.S. has never experienced a large-scale mail-in voter fraud effort. Wray added that any such fraud would be a “major challenge” for foreign countries to pull off.
Trump: Ballots Found in Wastepaper Baskets
Trump opened the round by saying that he is fine with solicited ballots but that his problem lies with states automatically sending ballots to all registered voters. He then went on to assert a number of claims.
“They’re sending millions of ballots all over the country,” Trump said. “There’s fraud. They found them in creeks. They found some, just happened to have the name Trump, just the other day in a wastepaper basket.”
Trump repeated that claim several more times, saying at one point, “They found ballots in a wastepaper basket three days ago, and they all had the name military ballots. There were military. They all had the name Trump on them.”
The president is referring to a situation in Pennsylvania where nine mailed-in military ballots were found “discarded” by a local election office. Seven of those ballots are known to have been cast for Trump, while two remain sealed.
It is fully possible that those nine ballots could have been improperly discarded, and it is also possible that the move was intentional; however, an ongoing investigation has yet to make that determination.
As The Washington Post reports, military absentee ballots also look like absentee ballot requests, so it is possible they were opened accidentally.
It’s also possible that the ballots could have been what’s known as “naked ballots,” meaning each voters’ candidate choices would have been revealed after opening the envelope. If that is the case, those ballots would have had to have been thrown out because of a recent ruling by the state’s Supreme Court.
Still, as of the debate, it is unproven that this incident is fraud, as Trump claimed.
Trump: Mail Carriers Are Selling Ballots
Following that, Trump claimed that mail carriers in West Virginia are selling ballots.
“Did you see what’s going on?” Trump said. “Take a look at West Virginia, mailman selling the ballots. They’re being sold.”
Plain and simple, this is not true.
In fact, the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office has since said that it doesn’t know of any instances in which ballots were sold in the state.
The closest comparison to Trump’s remarks stem from an incident that occurred earlier this year where a mailman pleaded guilty to election fraud after changing several absentee request forms from Democrat to Republican.
As many have noted, this instance of fraud was quickly caught. Additionally, the mailman’s actions never resulted in any altered ballots.
Wallace: Will You Pledge Not to Declare Immediate Victory?
Debate moderator Chris Wallace ended Tuesday’s debate by asking both candidates if they would urge their supporters to stay calm and not engage in civil unrest in the days following the election.
That’s because, as Wallace pointed out, the results of the election likely won’t be known for days or even maybe weeks after Nov. 3rd, due to the high volume of mail-in ballots.
“And will you pledge tonight that you will not declare victory until the election has been independently certified?” Wallace asked.
“I’m urging my supporters to go in to the polls and watch very carefully, because that’s what has to happen,” Trump responded. “I am urging them to do it.
“If it’s a fair election, I am 100% on board. But if I see tens of thousands of ballots being manipulated, I can’t go along with that. And I’ll tell you why—”
“What does that mean, not go along?” Wallace asked. “Does that mean you’re going to tell your people — to take to the streets?”
“I’ll tell you what it means,” Trump said. “It means you have a fraudulent election. You’re sending out 80 million ballots… These people are not equipped to handle it.”
Biden, however, responded with a much more concrete answer to Wallace’s question.
“Yes,” Biden said. “And here’s the deal. We count the ballots, as you pointed out. Some of these ballots in some states can’t even be opened until election day. And if there’s thousands of ballots, it’s going to take time to do it.”
See what others are saying: (Forbes) (ABC News) (The Washington Post)
Cambridge Analytica Passed Voter Suppression Information Over to the 2016 Trump Campaign, New Report Claims
- A new report claims Donald Trump’s campaign disproportionately targeted Black voters in the 2016 presidential election in an attempt to dissuade them from voting.
- According to Channel 4, Cambridge Analytica compiled that information and passed it to the Trump campaign as part of a “Deterrence” category.
- While this practice is legal, through the use of Facebook ads, it also potentially targeted 3.5 million Black voters in many states that were ultimately decided in tight races.
- Trump’s re-election campaign has denied these reports, but according to Channel 4, the 2016 campaign’s chief scientist explicitly said the “Deterrence” category contained people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote.”
Cambridge Analytica Database
A new report claims Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign received and used data that disproportionately targeted Black voters in an attempt to discourage them from voting in the last presidential election.
The report, published by U.K. outlet Channel 4 News, alleges that the Trump campaign received a database on 200 million American voters from the now-defunct firm Cambridge Analytica. That firm attracted international scrutiny after it was found to have harvested millions of Facebook users’ personal data without their consent.
In 2016, the Trump Campaign pumped $5.9 million into Cambridge Analytica.
As The Washington Post puts it, this database “could add detail to allegations about Cambridge Analytica’s role in the campaign, particularly in efforts to harness Facebook’s powerful ad technologies to dissuade Black voters from supporting Hillary Clinton.”
According to Channel 4, which claims to have obtained the database made by Cambridge Analytica, the list of voters covers 16 key battleground states. Among those states, voters were then separated into eight different categories.
For example, likely Democratic voters were listed as either “Core Clinton,” “Disengaged Clinton,” or “Deterrence.” Channel 4 quoted the chief data scientist of Trump’s 2016 campaign as explicitly saying the “Deterrence” category contained people that the campaign “hope don’t show up to vote.”
Notably, more than half the people listed in that category were either Black, Asian, or Latino.
On top of that, while Black voters only make up about 5.4% of the voting population in Wisconsin, the database marked 17% of Black voters in the state for “Deterrence.”
Likewise, in Michigan, Black voters accounted for 15% of the voting population in 2016; however, the database marked 33% of Black voters in the state for “Deterrence.”
Both races were extremely tight. In fact, Trump won Michigan by just 11,000 votes. At the same time, Black voter turnout in the state dropped by more than 12%.
Ties to the Trump Campaign
Channel 4 has not revealed how it obtained this database, but it does claim that Cambridge Analytica worked “hand in glove with a team from the Republican National Committee.”
Following the report, Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Trump’s reelection campaign, dismissed it as “fake news,” saying that Trump’s record gave him a “relationship of trust with African American voters.”
Paris Dennard, the RNC’s senior communications adviser for Black media affairs, affirmed that the data obtained by Channel 4 “is not our data.”
Matt Braynard, the Trump data director for the 2016 campaign, said his team didn’t use those categorizations. Instead, he said they relied on material from the party and another firm, L2 political.
“Deterrence doesn’t mean suppression and it doesn’t mean deterrence from voting,” Braynard specified. “It just means deterrence from voting for Hillary Clinton.”
Many of the testimonies seem to conflict with one another. While Murtaugh has claimed the story is “fake news,” Braynard has seemingly admitted that this data is at least real. In addition to that, Braynard said the category wasn’t meant to be a full deterrence from voting, but Channel 4’s quote from the Trump data scientist indicates the direct opposite.
According to The Washington Post, Brittany Kaiser, Cambridge Analytica’s former director of business development, said Channel 4’s report is consistent with “her understanding of how Cambridge Analytica and Republicans targeted Black voters in 2016.”
Kaiser then provided The Post with an internal company document from 2016 which described a similar classification strategy for Democrats, including a category labelled “Deterrent.”
Was This Legal?
The tactics described in the Channel 4 report are legal.
David Carroll, a professor at the Parsons School of Design in New York, called the database “a diabolically effective campaign tactic,” but added in a statement to The Post, “They’re just using free speech, even if it is misleading.”
Despite the tactic by Cambridge Analytica being legal, Channel 4 criticized Facebook for its role in airing ads potentially aimed at dissuading voters. Of particular note, during the 2016 Election, Facebook also employed “dark posts,” or ads that vanish from feeds after a campaign stops paying for them.
Those ads make it difficult to go back and track how campaigns targeted specific groups, and that has become a major point of contention because the Trump Campaign pumped $44 million in such types of ads in 2016.
Channel 4 was also critical of Facebook because it was seemingly the original source of information used to help create this database; however, Facebook has maintained that its information was improperly obtained and that Cambridge Analytica was in violation of its policies.