The latest chapter in the fraught relationship between social media giant Twitter and President Donald Trump took another turn on Tuesday, but this might be the most curious case yet.
Trump tweeted out a hopeful message Tuesday morning, ensuring the American people that the country would not close down again.
Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 6, 2020
Regardless of one’s feelings on Trump, that message was fairly innocuous.
If anything, it was a message of hope, telling the American people that while death and disease are certainly out there, they shouldn’t be used as boogeymen to shut down the economy, businesses, schools and the country writ large.
Apparently, Twitter felt that that bit of hopefulness needed to be muzzled. The immensely popular social media app flagged the tweet for “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.”
According to Twitter, there are three key facets the company looks at before flagging a post.
“Is the content advancing a claim of fact regarding COVID-19?” the first criteria reads.
Is “learning to live with” a claim of fact? It certainly doesn’t appear to be. And even more so, it’s almost inarguable that Americans are, indeed, “learning to live” in a world with COVID-19.
“Is the claim demonstrably false or misleading?” the second facet says.
To be fair, this tenet might raise a couple eyebrows. It’s not clear where Trump is pulling the 100,000 figure from. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, annual influenza death estimates in America ranged from 12,000 to 61,000 since 2010.
But in a 2017 release, the CDC also noted that worldwide influenza-related deaths ranged from 291,000 to 646,000 per year. Trump’s 100,000 figure, which doesn’t specify American deaths or worldwide deaths, is comfortably lower than that range.
And saying that the coronavirus is “far less lethal” in some other countries is demonstrably true.
“Would belief in this information, as presented, lead to harm?” is the third criteria Twitter looks at when assessing so-called misleading information.
Ah, there it is. That third and final question is essentially a catch-all for Twitter.
It is rather difficult to argue against an individual’s interpretation of “belief,” so if Twitter thinks it can lead to harm, that appears to be all the reasoning they need.
And based on the social media giant’s criteria, it almost certainly won’t be Twitter’s last time going after Trump.