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Twitter Restricts Donald Trump Jr.'s Account Over COVID-19 Misinformation

Twitter confirms it has placed temporary restrictions on the account of Donald Trump Jr., shown here speaking at an event last month in Phoenix.
Evan Vucci
Twitter confirms it has placed temporary restrictions on the account of Donald Trump Jr., shown here speaking at an event last month in Phoenix.

Updated at 6:45 p.m. ET

Twitter put a 12-hour restriction on Donald Trump Jr.'s account, saying the president's son put out a tweet that contained "misleading and potentially harmful" information about the coronavirus.

The news emerged after a person close to Trump Jr. — Republican political strategist Andrew Surabian — posted a screenshot showing what appeared to be a message to Trump Jr. alerting him of a temporary limit on his account based on the company's policy on spreading misinformation on COVID-19.

The message said the president's eldest son wouldn't be able to tweet or follow new accounts until the restrictions were lifted. However, Trump Jr. did retain his ability to send direct messages to his followers, the message said.

Twitter confirmed the restriction in a subsequent tweet, emphasizing the action was a temporary limit on some of his account's features and not a permanent suspension.

Twitter confirmed to NPR that the tweet contained video of a press conference, disseminated by Breitbart News, of a group calling itself America's Frontline Doctors that had spread throughout social media.

The video questions the efficacy of mask usage despite widespread and clear evidence to the contrary. It also promotes giving the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to coronavirus patients. Trump has touted this idea despite a lack of scientific evidence. The National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have saidthe drug is not likely to be effective.

Tweets sharing the video were deleted, the company confirmed. In addition to removing the video, the social media giant placed temporary restrictions on Breitbart News.

President Trump also reportedly shared the video and retweeted others promoting the use of the drug. Two tweets on the president's timeline have been deleted.

Other social media companies reacted similarly, with YouTube telling NPR that it removed the video for violating its policies on spreading misinformation about COVID-19. Multiple media outletsreported that Facebook took down the video down as well.

Social media companies have struggled to combat false and misleading information about the pandemic posted on their platforms. Twitter, Facebook and Google all introduced policiesto better identify and remove false and dubious information about the coronavirus pandemic.

Editor's note: Google and Facebook are among NPR's financial supporters.

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Jason Slotkin