Mar 30, 2020 - Technology

Twitter cracks down on coronavirus misinformation from Giuliani, Bolsonaro

Photo: Saul Martinez/Getty Images

It's notable that Twitter, like other social networks, has announced stricter rules on virus-related misinformation than other types of false posts. Even more notable, though, is that Twitter has actually enforced its rules against prominent accounts in recent days.

Why it matters: Twitter has been criticized for being lax to enforce its rules, particularly against well-known politicians and celebrities.

Driving the news: Twitter temporarily locked the account of The Federalist after it linked to one of its articles suggesting the best way to approach the coronavirus was to spread it to as many young people as possible quickly in order to build immunity.

  • Twitter deleted a tweet from Rudy Giuliani quoting conservative activist Charlie Kirk, who touted hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, as a cure for the coronavirus. (It has yet to be scientifically determined to be effective at treating COVID-19.)
  • Twitter deleted a pair of tweets by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro that cast doubt on the need for quarantines. Bolsonaro has downplayed the risks of the coronavirus.

Twitter has made several adjustments to its rules specifically targeting misinformation about COVID-19, including how it is spread and transmitted as well as cures and treatments not backed up by medical authorities.

Yes, but: There are plenty of examples of Twitter failing to act, even regarding the coronavirus. The company allowed to stand a tweet from Elon Musk that said that children were immune from COVID-19 (they aren't) as well as other tweets of dubious veracity.

Go deeper: Coronavirus panic sells as alarmist information flies on social media

Go deeper

Trump has turned Big Tech's speech rules into a political football

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Twitter made headlines Tuesday after labeling two election-related tweets from President Trump as potentially misleading — the company’s first action against the president’s tweets, which often test its policies on misinformation and abuse.

The big picture: Twitter's unprecedented move, which swiftly drew Trump's fury, was just one of four controversies over the last 24 hours involving tech platforms grappling with free speech issues. And all of them, Axios' Sara Fischer and I report, reflect what a partisan issue the policing of social media content has become.

Fauci: Data is "really quite evident" against hydroxychloroquine for coronavirus

Anthony Fauci told CNN Wednesday that the scientific data "is really quite evident now about the lack of efficacy" of hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.

Driving the news: The comments came in response to news that France on Wednesday banned the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the virus, after a large retrospective study in The Lancet found an increased risk of heart problems and death among coronavirus patients who took the anti-malarial drug.

U.S. coronavirus updates

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios. This graphic includes "probable deaths" that New York City began reporting on April 14.

More than 100,000 Americans have died of the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins — a milestone that puts the death toll far beyond some of the most tragic events in U.S. history.

By the numbers: Over 1.6 million have tested positive in the U.S. Nearly 354,000 Americans have recovered and over 15.1 million tests have been conducted. California became the fourth state with at least 100,000 reported cases of the coronavirus on Wednesday, along with Illinois, New Jersey and New York.