Skip to main content

Twitter won’t remove irresponsible Elon Musk tweet about coronavirus

Twitter won’t remove irresponsible Elon Musk tweet about coronavirus


Musk said kids are ‘essentially immune’ despite early evidence to the contrary

Share this story

Elon Musk At SpaceX Headquarters
Photo by Yichuan Cao/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Twitter will not take down a tweet from billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk where he said children are “essentially immune” to COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, despite early evidence that they can be infected and become seriously ill.

Musk sent the tweet at 5:55PM ET on Thursday in response to a question from a user with the display name “Hopeful Pope of Muskanity.”

“Kids are essentially immune, but elderly with existing conditions are vulnerable. Family gatherings with close contact between kids & grandparents probably most risky,” Musk wrote.

Twitter announced earlier this week that it was joining forces with Facebook and others to fight misinformation about the growing pandemic. And while experts agree that elderly people with preexisting conditions are at high risk, the first clause of Musk’s tweet appeared to be at odds with new guidelines from Twitter about how it plans to moderate coronavirus content. In a blog published this week, Twitter said it was “[b]roadening our definition of harm to address content that goes directly against guidance from authoritative sources of global and local public health information.” One of the examples the company gave was this:

Denial of established scientific facts about transmission during the incubation period or transmission guidance from global and local health authorities, such as “COVID-19 does not infect children because we haven’t seen any cases of children being sick.”

While younger people do, on average, seem to be less affected by COVID-19, there is early evidence that it can still cause major health issues in some children, and especially infants.

But that’s not enough to put Musk’s tweet into the territory of misinformation, according to Twitter.

“When reviewing the overall context and conclusion of the Tweet, it does not break our rules, the company said in a statement to The Verge. “We’ll continue to consult with trusted partners such as health authorities to identify content that is most harmful.”

Musk has repeatedly underplayed the coronavirus pandemic throughout the month of March. After saying the panic over the virus was “dumb,” he compared the lethality of COVID-19 to that of car crashes — which do not spread virally and are not contagious — in an email to employees at SpaceX.

He continued this trend on Thursday, even after offering to make desperately-needed ventilators.

The thread that led up to the tweet in question started with Musk sharing a New York Times story about how China had reported no new cases of domestic spread of the novel coronavirus on Thursday. When asked if he believed the numbers coming from China’s authoritarian leadership, Musk said yes. He then followed up with another tweet where he said he believed there would “probably” be no new cases of COVID-19 by the “end of April.”

Just hours after Musk’s tweets, California governor Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s 40 million residents to stay in their homes until further notice (except for essential activities like buying food) to help stomp out the spread of the coronavirus. The governor said Thursday he believes over 25 million California residents could become infected within the next eight weeks.

Earlier this month, Twitter removed tweets from John McAfee, David Clarke, and others as part of a “zero-tolerance approach to platform manipulation and any other attempts to abuse our service at this critical juncture.”

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 7 minutes ago Not just you

Emma Roth7 minutes ago
Starlink is growing.

The Elon Musk-owned satellite internet service, which covers all seven continents including Antarctica, has now made over 1 million user terminals. As Starlink looks to expand to cruise ships, planes, and even school buses, Musk recently promised to bypass sanctions to activate the service in Iran, where the government put restrictions on communications due to mass protests.

External Link
Emma RothTwo hours ago
We might not get another Apple event this year.

While Apple was initially expected to hold an event to launch its rumored M2-equipped Macs and iPads in October, Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman predicts Apple will announce its new devices in a series of press releases, website updates, and media briefings instead.

I know that it probably takes a lot of work to put these polished events together, but if Apple does pass on it this year, I will kind of miss vibing to the livestream’s music and seeing all the new products get presented.

External Link
Emma RothSep 24
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoes the state’s “BitLicense” law.

The bill, called the Digital Financial Assets Law, would establish a regulatory framework for companies that transact with cryptocurrency in the state, similar to New York’s BitLicense system. In a statement, Newsom says it’s “premature to lock a licensing structure” and that implementing such a program is a “costly undertaking:”

A more flexible approach is needed to ensure regulatory oversight can keep up with rapidly evolving technology and use cases, and is tailored with the proper tools to address trends and mitigate consumer harm.

Welcome to the new Verge

Revolutionizing the media with blog posts

Nilay PatelSep 13
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Look at this Thing.

At its Tudum event today, Netflix showed off a new clip from the Tim Burton series Wednesday, which focused on a very important character: the sentient hand known as Thing. The full series starts streaming on November 23rd.

The Verge
Andrew WebsterSep 24
Get ready for some Netflix news.

At 1PM ET today Netflix is streaming its second annual Tudum event, where you can expect to hear news about and see trailers from its biggest franchises, including The Witcher and Bridgerton. I’ll be covering the event live alongside my colleague Charles Pulliam-Moore, and you can also watch along at the link below. There will be lots of expected names during the stream, but I have my fingers crossed for a new season of Hemlock Grove.

Jay PetersSep 23
Twitch’s creators SVP is leaving the company.

Constance Knight, Twitch’s senior vice president of global creators, is leaving for a new opportunity, according to Bloomberg’s Cecilia D’Anastasio. Knight shared her departure with staff on the same day Twitch announced impending cuts to how much its biggest streamers will earn from subscriptions.

Tom WarrenSep 23
Has the Windows 11 2022 Update made your gaming PC stutter?

Nvidia GPU owners have been complaining of stuttering and poor frame rates with the latest Windows 11 update, but thankfully there’s a fix. Nvidia has identified an issue with its GeForce Experience overlay and the Windows 11 2022 Update (22H2). A fix is available in beta from Nvidia’s website.

External Link
If you’re using crash detection on the iPhone 14, invest in a really good phone mount.

Motorcycle owner Douglas Sonders has a cautionary tale in Jalopnik today about the iPhone 14’s new crash detection feature. He was riding his LiveWire One motorcycle down the West Side Highway at about 60 mph when he hit a bump, causing his iPhone 14 Pro Max to fly off its handlebar mount. Soon after, his girlfriend and parents received text messages that he had been in a horrible accident, causing several hours of panic. The phone even called the police, all because it fell off the handlebars. All thanks to crash detection.

Riding a motorcycle is very dangerous, and the last thing anyone needs is to think their loved one was in a horrible crash when they weren’t. This is obviously an edge case, but it makes me wonder what other sort of false positives we see as more phones adopt this technology.