Twitter will not delete a tweet from billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, where he said children are “essentially immune” to COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, despite early evidence that they can become infected and become seriously ill.
Musk sent the tweet at 5:55 p.m. ET on Thursday in response to a question from a user with the display name “Hopeful Pope of the Muslim Religion.”
“Children are essentially immune, but the elderly with existing illnesses are vulnerable. Family reunions with close contact between children and grandparents are probably the most risky, ”wrote Musk.
Twitter announced earlier this week that it will join forces with Facebook and others to combat misinformation about the growing pandemic. And while experts agree that older adults with pre-existing conditions are at high risk, the first clause of Musk’s tweet appears to be at odds with Twitter’s new guidelines on how he plans to moderate the content of coronaviruses. In one blog published this week, Twitter said it was “[b]enhance our definition of harm to address content that goes directly against the recommendations of authoritative sources of global and local public health information. One of the examples the company gave was:
Denial of established scientific facts about transmission during the incubation period or of transmission guidelines from global and local health authorities, such as “COVID-19 does not infect children because we have not seen any cases of children sick ”.
But that’s not enough to put Musk’s tweet in disinformation territory, according to Twitter.
“When examining the general context and concluding the Tweet, this does not violate our rules,” the company said in a statement to The edge. “We will continue to consult trusted partners such as health authorities to identify the most dangerous content.”
Musk repeatedly underestimated the coronavirus pandemic throughout the month of March. After saying that the panic about the virus was “dumb“He compared the lethality of COVID-19 to that of car accidents – which do not spread virally and are not contagious – in an e-mail addressed to employees of SpaceX.
He continued this trend on Thursday, even after offering to make desperately needed fans.
The thread that led to the tweet in question started with Musk sharing a New york times story on how China did not report any new national spread of the new coronavirus on Thursday. When asked if he believed the figures from authoritarian leaders in China, Musk replied yes. He then followed up with another tweet where he said he thought there would be “probably” no new cases of COVID-19 by “the end of April”.
Just hours after Musk’s tweets, California Governor Gavin Newsom ordered the 40 million residents of the state to stay home until further notice (except for essential activities such as buying food) to help curb the spread of the coronavirus. The governor said thursday he believes more than 25 million California residents could be infected in the next eight weeks.
Earlier this month, Twitter deleted tweets from John McAfee, David Clarke and others as part of a “zero tolerance approach to platform manipulation and any other attempt to abuse our service at this critical stage. “