Twitter limited some of Donald Trump Jr’s account features on Tuesday, after the president’s eldest son shared false claims about the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment.
Trump Jr shared a viral video published by the far-right Breitbart News website which contained unsubstantiated claims about supposed cures.
YouTube and Facebook removed the video before Trump Jr’s father, the president, shared it in a series of retweets on Monday night. Twitter removed the video, also warning users of the potential risks of using hydroxychloroquine to treat Covid-19.
Social media sites also took action against others sharing the video, including Kelli Ward, chair of the Arizona Republican party and a family physician. Ward had shared the video on Twitter and posted it to her Facebook page, where it was also removed.
Ward criticized the removals in follow up posts, saying “Truth apparently violates Twitter standards” and using the hashtags #RealTimeCensorship and #Sickening.
The video in question featured Dr Stella Immanuel, a physician from Houston, Texas, speaking on the steps of the US Capitol in Washington, surrounded by members of a rightwing doctors’ group.
Immanuel made baseless claims about coronavirus, including hailing hydroxychloroquine as a “cure”, even though the drug, which has been repeatedly touted by the president, has not been found to be an effective treatment.
The Houston doctor has also dismissed mounting evidence that face masks substantially help limit the spread of coronavirus.
On Tuesday morning an adviser to Trump Jr, Andy Surabian, claimed Twitter had suspended Trump Jr “for posting a viral video of medical doctors talking about hydroxychloroquine”.
Referring to a screenshot shared by Surabian, Twitter said: “This account has not been permanently suspended. Per the screenshot, the Tweet requires deletion because it violates our rules (sharing misinformation on Covid-19), and the account will have limited functionality for 12 hours.”
Surabian responded: “This is such silly ‘pushback’ … if someone can’t tweet, retweet or like anything, pretty sure that qualifies as a suspension, even if they use a different corporate approved term for it.”
According to the Daily Beast, Immanuel is a pediatrician and religious minister who has made other outlandish claims, including that some gynecological problems are caused by dreams of having sex with witches or demons.
She has also said the US government is run in part by “reptilians” and aliens; that alien DNA is used in medicines; and that scientists want to vaccinate people against being religious.
On ABC’s Good Morning America on Tuesday, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was asked about Donald Trump’s retweet spree, which also included a claim that Fauci had misled the American people.
“I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances,” he said.
Fauci also said: “The overwhelming prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease.”
Kari Paul contributed reporting