Twitter says coronavirus disinformation spread by Chinese officials does not violate rules
Misinformation about the coronavirus spread by Chinese government officials does not violate Twitter’s policies, a spokesperson for the company told The Hill Monday.
In particular, tweets from Lijian Zhao, an official spokesperson for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, insinuating that the U.S. military may have spread the coronavirus to Wuhan, China, will remain up.
Twitter’s spokesperson pointed to the company’s position of giving public figures broad exemptions to many of its policies.
“Presently, direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on economic or military issues are generally not in violation of the Twitter Rules,” the site reads.
Twitter’s decision not to take down the tweets implying that the disease, which originated in Wuhan, was brought by the U.S. has already drawn criticism.
“When Twitter goes so full Chinese propaganda that they’ve even lost The Daily Beast…” Donald Trump Jr., the president’s son, wrote, quote-tweeting the outlet that first reported on the exemptions.
When Twitter goes so full Chinese propaganda that they’ve even lost The Daily Beast… https://t.co/qyubmcQylF
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) March 23, 2020
Twitter earlier this month expanded its rules around coronavirus misinformation to include a wider variety of content that could put people at risk of transmitting or contracting the disease.
The social media giant said it would require users to take down posts that deny expert recommendations, promote fake treatments and prevention techniques, or misleadingly claim to be from authorities. It also said it would take action against posts alleging that any particular group or nationality is more or less susceptible to coronavirus.
The new policy has had mixed results so far.
In addition to the Chinese officials, public figures in the U.S. have also been allowed to get away with posting misinformation.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that “kids are essentially immune” to the disease. While evidence suggests that children are at a reduced risk, thousands of them have still been infected. A 14-year-old in China has died from the disease, according to a study by Pediatrics.
Twitter chose not to remove the post, telling The Hill, “it doesn’t violate our rules at this time.”