Antitrust Hearing

Why Donald Trump Jr. was banned on Twitter

"Congressman, well, first to be clear, I think what you might be referring to happened on Twitter so it's hard for me to speak to that"

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US PRESS GROUP

The opening statements at Wednesday's House antitrust hearing had barely cooled when Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin accused Facebook of temporarily suspending the account of Donald Trump, Jr.

There was just one problem, which the Facebook CEO wasted no time in addressing: Congressman Sensenbrenner had confused Facebook with Twitter.

That's right, it was not Facebook which took the described action against the president's son for sharing dangerous coronavirus misinformation.

Rather, it was Twitter which briefly suspended Trump Jr. for sharing a video that hyped the drug hydroxychloroquine and suggested masks aren't necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

But no one apparently told that to Congressman Sensenbrenner, who, at the antitrust hearing, appeared fixated on the baseless claim that Facebook censors conservatives.

"It was reported that Donald Trump, Jr. got taken down for a period of time because he put something up on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine," Sensenbrenner said to Zuckerberg.

"Now, I wouldn't take it myself, but there still is a debate on whether it is effective either in treating or preventing COVID-19, and I think that this is a legitimate matter of discussion and it would be up to a patient and their doctor to determine whether hydroxychloroquine was the correct medication, you know, given the circumstances. Why did that happen?"

Zuckerberg, likely relieved to not have to address any of the substantive antitrust arguments against his company, took it upon himself to patiently explain why Donald Trump, Jr. had been suspended from Twitter.

"Congressman, well, first to be clear, I think what you might be referring to happened on Twitter so it's hard for me to speak to that," replied the Facebook CEO.

"But I can talk to our policies about this. We do prohibit content that will lead to imminent risk of harm, and stating that there's a proven cure for COVID, when there is in fact none, might encourage someone to go take something that could have some adverse effects."

To drive the point home, Zuckerberg added that Facebook would remove content promising an unproven cure for COVID-19.

"So we do take that down," explained the clearly exasperated CEO. "We do not prohibit discussion around trials of drugs, or people saying that they think that things might work, or personal experiences with experimental drugs. But if someone is going to say that something is proven, when in fact it is not, that then could lead people to make a decision with their health."

In fact, the misleading viral video in question was viewed 17 million times on Facebook before it was taken down by the Facebook. Versions of it were still being shared across Facebook-owned Instagram as of yesterday, however.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, meanwhile, was not in attendance at the hearing.

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