Coronavirus disinformation and conspiracy theories spread by senior Chinese government officials does not violate Twitter’s terms of service, a company representative said Monday.
According to The Daily Caller, “Chinese state officials who spread propaganda online accusing the United States of planting coronavirus into Wuhan, China, are not violating Twitter’s terms of service, according to a company representative who spoke to the Daily Beast on condition of anonymity.”
The representative did not provide a reason for not going on the record.
The representative pointed to language on its website that gives wide latitude to statements from government officials. “Presently,” the company says, “direct interactions with fellow public figures, comments on political issues of the day, or foreign policy saber-rattling on economic or military issues are generally not in violation of the Twitter Rules.”
Chinese senior official Lijian Zhao on March 12 tweet suggesting the United States is trying to covertly inject the virus into China does not violate Twitter rules, a company spokesman told the DCNF on March 12.
“When did Patient Zero appear in the United States? How many people are infected? What is the name of the hospital?” Zhao, deputy director of China’s Foreign Ministry Information Department, said in the tweet. “It may be that the US military brought the epidemic to Wuhan.”
— Lijian Zhao 赵立坚 (@zlj517) March 12, 2020
Zhao added: “America needs to be transparent! The United States owes us an explanation!” Zhao also falsely stated in the tweet that Centers For Disease Control Robert Redfield was “arrested” before floating the conspiracy theory to his 317,000 followers. But Redfield was never apprehended.
“If #COVID19 began last September, & US has been lack of testing ability, how many would have been infected? US should find out when patient zero appeared,” Zhao added, implying that patient zero came from the United States.
Health officials say the virus began in China’s Wuhan region and expanded geometrically from there despite his suggestions otherwise.
Certain other public figures in the U.S. have also been allowed to get away with posting misinformation, Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted that “kids are essentially immune” to the disease. While evidence suggests that children are at a reduced risk, thousands of them have still been infected. A 14-year-old in China has died from the disease, according to a study by Pediatrics.
Twitter chose not to remove the post, “We reviewed the Tweets, and they don’t violate our rules at this time. Please continue to share anything you think we should take a closer look at — we’ll continue to rely on trusted partners, such as health authorities, to flag content that is harmful,” Twitter said in a statement to Axios.