Twitter announced it would be censoring its platform to stop spreading fake news about the coronavirus. But will the ban extend to Elon Musk?
Musk, co-founder of Tesla and SpaceX, has been critical of the fuss over the coronavirus pandemic. He tweeted a paper yesterday that was brought together by two Bitcoin fans, James Todaro, managing partner at Blocktown Capital, and Gregory Rigano, lawyer and inventor of blockchain platform IKU.
Maybe worth considering chloroquine for C19 https://t.co/LEYob7Jofr— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 16, 2020
It almost goes without saying that the tweet was controversial. Joan Donovan, a Shorenstein Center social media researcher tweeted:
Two bitcoin entrepreneurs are pushing a self-published “study” claiming a cure for the virus. They haven’t done any original research, but instead have strung together lengthy quotes from other scientists, who have done very limited research. Elon Musk tweeted their paper.— Joan Donovan, PhD (@BostonJoan) March 19, 2020
She explained that the study was based on another study—which Musk also tweeted. Its author, Didier Raoult, appeared on Tucker Carlson, adviser to the Stanford University School of Medicine SPARK Translational Research Program, on Wednesday. He touted the anti-malaria drug as a 100% for coronavirus.
“This is dangerous because people are now tweeting about trying to get their doctors to prescribe anti-malaria drugs. Worse, thousands of people think they can cure coronavirus by drinking tonic water,” Donovan added. The drug name is similar to quinine, a compound found in tonic water. She noted that Google searches for tonic water rose suddenly following the segment on Tucker Carlson.
Here is the google search trend, showing the popularity of searches for "quinine" (blue) and "tonic water" (red) during the segment on Tucker. People are making these connections pic.twitter.com/9pV0cdcF4K— Joan Donovan, PhD (@BostonJoan) March 19, 2020
Donovan pointed to weaknesses in the original study, including a small sample size and limited follow-up with the patients after the cure.
Twitter has recognized that this is a problem. It announced that it would be cracking down on misinformation regarding the virus. Specifically it said it would target, “Propagating false or misleading information around COVID-19 diagnostic criteria or procedures.”
Well, according to @Twitter's statement on updated policies regarding disinformation during the pandemic this appears to be the exact kind of content that they promised to remove as rapidly as possible. Worth reporting and getting others to do the same.— Alexi Drew (@CyberAlexi) March 19, 2020
For now, the tweets remain up—and people are still searching for tonic water. One Twitter profile summed up the whole situation,“quinine isn’t a covid-19 cure, and the bitcoin nutters will kill us all some other way.”