Coronavirus disinformation spread by senior Chinese government officials does not violate Twitter’s terms of service, a spokesperson for the company told The Daily Beast on Monday.
The spokesperson 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.”
According to Twitter, that language applies to recent falsehoods related to the novel coronavirus shared widely by senior Chinese officials, including the top spokesman for the country’s ministry of foreign affairs and a number of Beijing’s ambassadors around the world.
Those officials and other Chinese propagandists have sought to spread false rumors that COVID-19, a virus that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, may have actually started spreading in the United States—and may even have been created by the United States government.
Other governments have also sought to spread similar disinformation. A website owned by the Russian ministry of defense recently hyped conspiracy theories that the coronavirus may have been created and spread by Bill Gates, George Soros, or the U.S. military.
The Trump administration has recently sought to implement a government-wide communications strategy that seeks to pin blame on Beijing for failing to contain the virus, and attempting to cover up its spread early on.