Twitter Locks Account Encouraging Coronavirus ‘Chickenpox Parties’
Twitter briefly locked conservative site The Federalist’s account. The account promoted the medically unreliable idea of “medical chickenpox parties” to infect young, healthy people with the virus under controlled quarantine. The tweet was removed for violating the social media platform’s policies, and a Twitter spokesperson told The Verge that “the account was temporarily locked for violating the Twitter Rules regarding COVID-19.”
Twitter bans coronavirus-related content that “goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.” That includes tweets promoting ineffective or counterproductive treatments, denying the effectiveness of measures like social distancing, or contradicting known public health facts.
The Federalist was tweeting an article where an Oregon physician urged readers to “seriously consider a somewhat unconventional approach” to the pandemic. But “unconventional” is a bit of a euphemism. The hospital system is overloaded even without deliberate infections, and unlike with chickenpox, we don’t know how long COVID-19 immunity lasts. In other words, hosting a coronavirus “chickenpox party” is a very bad idea.
The coronavirus pandemic has led to a global lockdown and thousands of deaths, as well as economic chaos. America has the third-highest number of confirmed cases, after China and Italy. Congress is attempting to mitigate the economic harm with a stimulus package.
Twitter also slapped a warning on the article when it was later reposted elsewhere, telling readers who clicked the link that it was “potentially harmful or associated with a violation of Twitter’s Terms of Service.”
Facebook also recently published guidance for COVID-19 hoaxes and misinformation, drawing a line around content that could “contribute to imminent physical harm.” That includes statements like saying that social distancing doesn’t work — something Facebook says it recently started taking down. It doesn’t include more abstract claims like “conspiracy theories about the origin of the virus,” which aren’t considered immediately harmful, but can be de-ranked and flagged with a warning label, like other false information on the platform.