technology

Twitter dodges U.S.-China coronavirus blame game

The spread of the coronavirus has ignited a global war of words on and off social media over its origin.

Twitter building

Twitter said it will not take action against politicians’ tweets on the origins of the coronavirus outbreak unless they pose a “clear incitement” of physical harm, indicating it plans to largely stay on the sidelines of an intensifying blame game between U.S. and Chinese leaders.

“Official government accounts engaging in conversation about the origins of the virus and global public conversation about potential emergent treatments will be permitted, unless the content contains clear incitement to take a harmful physical action,” Twitter’s public safety arm tweeted late Monday.

The announcement arrives as the rapid spread of the virus — first identified in Wuhan, China — has ignited a global war of words on and off social media over its origin.

President Donald Trump and other Republican officials have repeatedly referred to the outbreak as a “Chinese virus,” stoking warnings among Democrats that the rhetoric will incite violence against Asian Americans. Meanwhile, Chinese officials have suggested without evidence that the illness may have originated in the United States, angering Republican lawmakers.

Trump has also repeatedly promoted unproven treatments for Covid-19, including an anti-malarial drug that his own health officials caution needs much more testing to determine whether it is safe and effective.

Twitter earlier this month expanded its rules against coronavirus misinformation to include posts that contradict recommendations or reliable information about the illness from authoritative public health agencies, part of a wider crackdown by the social media industry.