Twitter temporarily suspended Donald Trump Jr.’s account after the president’s son shared a video showing doctors touting hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment.
In the now-removed tweet, Trump Jr. captioned the video Monday evening writing, “This is a much watch!!! So different from the narrative that everyone is running with.”
Trump Jr. spokesman Andrew Surabian tweeted the suspension news, saying “Big Tech is the biggest threat to free expression in America today.”
“@Twitter & @jack have suspended @DonaldJTrumpJr for posting a viral video of medical doctors talking about Hydroxychloroquine,” Surabian tweeted Tuesday morning. “Big Tech is the biggest threat to free expression in America today & they’re continuing to engage in open election interference — full stop.”
Big Tech is the biggest threat to free expression in America today & they're continuing to engage in open election interference – full stop. pic.twitter.com/7dJbauq43O
— Andrew Surabian (@Surabees) July 28, 2020
In a statement, Surabian said the suspension was “further proof that Big Tech is intent on killing free expression online.”
“Twitter suspending Don Jr. for sharing a viral video of medical professionals discussing their views on Hydroxychloroquine is further proof that Big Tech is intent on killing free expression online and is another instance of them committing election interference to stifle Republican voices,” Surabian said. “While there is indeed much disagreement in the medical community about the efficacy of Hydroxychloroquine in treating coronavirus, there have been studies reported on by “mainstream” outlets like CNN suggesting that it may in fact be an effective treatment. Those pretending otherwise are lying for political reasons.”
A Twitter spokesperson said Trump Jr. account was not suspended, but only limiting his “account functionality for 12 hours” because the video is in “violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy.”
“We did not suspend the account. The screenshot shared directly says that Twitter required the Tweet to be deleted because it violated our rules, and that we would limit some account functionality for 12 hours,” a Twitter spokesperson said. “Tweets with the video are in violation of our COVID-19 misinformation policy.”
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. More in our rules: https://t.co/0wHWVV5QS4 https://t.co/0gq7rlaNw7
— Twitter Comms (@TwitterComms) July 28, 2020
Surabian fired back on Twitter clarification, saying the limit amounts to a suspension, despite playing “the word games.”
“No one said he was permanently suspended or banned. It was temporarily suspended. “limited functionality” = losing the ability to tweet and retweet, which is what anyone with a functioning brain would call a suspension, despite the word games @twittercomms is playing here,” Surabian replied to Twitter Communication tweet.
The video shared by Trump Jr. was first published by Breitbart News that featured a group of doctors who call themselves “America’s Frontline Doctors” holding a press conference in front of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. During the press conference, one of the physicians defended the use of hydroxychloroquine and said recent studies showing the antimalarial drug is ineffective for the treatment of the coronavirus are “fake science” and sponsored by “fake pharma companies.” They also claimed one “don’t need masks” to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
“This virus has a cure, it’s called Hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and Zithromax,” the physician stated in the video. “You don’t need masks, there is a cure.”
The video spread like wildfire on social media platforms Monday, racking up millions of views before being taken down by Twitter, Facebook, and Youtube. The video went viral Monday night on Facebook, garnering over 14 million views and shared 600,000 times before it was removed.
President Trump also shared the video, retweeting the video post on his Twitter feed Monday night. Twitter said since the president retweeted the video, the company will take similar action in temporarily suspending his account like it did with his son’s account. However, they removed several of Trump’s tweets regarding the coronavirus.
“The President did not Tweet the video in question, he retweeted it. Therefore, the account owner of the Tweet he Retweeted will face enforcement action,” a Twitter spokesperson said.
On Tuesday, Twitter blocked the video from being viewed, with a message reading, “This Tweet is no longer available,” and also began limiting accounts functionality, including the ability to tweet, of those directly tweeting the video.