Show an ad over header. AMP

Everyone turns to Twitter as Trump battles COVID-19

As Americans collectively process the president's bout with COVID-19, they are solidifying Twitter's role as both our national water cooler and key source of official and unofficial information.

Why it matters: Twitter's architecture makes it a natural forum to turn to during key news moments, and the crisis has shown the platform's continuing value in that role. But the moment is also displaying many of the service's weaknesses — a vulnerability to rumor and speculation, security gaps, and inconsistent rules enforcement.

Driving the news:

  • The president first revealed his positive test for coronavirus on Twitter at 1 a.m. Friday. Official confirmation came quickly, but still several minutes later. Subsequent videos and statements from the president have also come via Twitter, though he's tweeting a lot less than has been typical.
  • With the public receiving limited and contradictory information on the president's health, Twitter has also been a place for medical professionals to analyze the information coming out about Trump's health.
  • With many Trump campaign and White House staffers themselves out of the loop, Twitter has also served as their main source of information, as the Wall Street Journal and others report.

The big picture: Facebook has also been an information source during the crisis, and has taken action against some posts connecting the president's illness with election-related misinformation.

  • Even TikTok has played a role, as Kellyanne Conway's daughter used that service to announce her mother's COVID-19 diagnosis, which the former White House adviser then confirmed on Twitter.

But Twitter has played the most central role for several reasons.

  1. It is public by default.
  2. It favors real-time posts, unlike Facebook whose algorithm weights engagement over timeliness.
  3. It is the president's go-to medium, and is widely used by journalists, politicians and medical professionals.

People used Twitter to share everything from their experiences with dexamethasone, the steroid Trump is on; to how both parties ought to handle the situation; to expressing their disapproval of Trump's Sunday SUV ride.

Yes, but: Baseless, evidence-free conspiracy theories have also flourished about the president's health, including suggestions that Trump's illness isn't real.

  • The "Trump is faking it" conspiracy theory is spreading widely on Twitter and Reddit, according to data provided to Axios from social intelligence firm Zignal Labs, which analyzed the top storylines related to Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis from 12:01am on Oct. 2 onwards.

My thought bubble: As I and others have pointed out since before Trump took office, the president's continued reliance on Twitter to convey messages that have a national security impact is a risky practice.

  • Among other reasons, there is no sure-fire way to know if his account had been compromised.
  • In this case, the tweet in which the president confirmed he had COVID-19 was authentic. However, a tweet from a hacked presidential account would look identical.

Also, with Twitter and other social media platforms, you can never be sure whether the account holder or a surrogate is actually writing a post.

  • Given the sparse medical info the public has received and concerns over the president's fitness to carry out his duties, our ignorance of who's doing the typing could become a more troubling problem.

Locker Room wants to reinvent how fans talk sports

Locker Room, a social audio app where fans can talk sports and spontaneously join live conversations, launches Tuesday on the App Store.

The state of play: The company behind Locker Room, Betty Labs, has raised $9.3 million in seed funding led by Google Ventures with participation from Lightspeed Venture Partners, Axios has learned.

Keep reading... Show less

The coronavirus is starting to crush some hospitals

Some states are seeing dangerous levels of coronavirus hospitalizations, with hospitals warning that they could soon become overwhelmed if no action is taken to slow the spread.

Why it matters: Patients can only receive good care if there's enough care to go around — which is one reason why the death rate was so much higher in the spring, some experts say.

Keep reading... Show less

Scoop: The Lincoln Project is becoming a media business

The Lincoln Project is looking to beef up its media business after the election, sources tell Axios.

Driving the news: The group recently signed with the United Talent Agency (UTA) to help build out Lincoln Media and is weighing offers from different television studios, podcast networks and book publishers.

Keep reading... Show less

Trump, Biden strategies revealed in final ad push

Data: Bully Pulpit Interactive; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

President Trump is pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into Facebook ads on the Supreme Court and conservative judges in the final stretch of his campaign, while Joe Biden is spending over a million on voter mobilization, according to an analysis by Axios using data from Bully Pulpit Interactive.

The big picture: Trump's Facebook ad messaging has fluctuated dramatically in conjunction with the news cycle throughout his campaign, while Biden's messaging has been much more consistent, focusing primarily on health care and the economy.

Keep reading... Show less

How NASA and the Space Force might fare under Biden

Joe Biden hasn't gone out of his way to talk about outer space during his presidential campaign. That could be bad news for NASA's exploration ambitions, but good news for the Space Force.

The big picture: NASA faces two threats with any new administration: policy whiplash and budget cuts. In a potential Biden administration, the space agency could get to stay the course on the policy front, while competing with other priorities on the spending side.

Keep reading... Show less

Axios-Ipsos poll: Federal coronavirus response has only gotten worse

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note ±3.3% margin of error for the total sample size; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Americans believe the federal government's handling of the pandemic has gotten significantly worse over time, according to the latest installment of the Axios/Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: Every other institution measured in Week 29 of our national poll — from state and local governments to people's own employers and area businesses — won positive marks for improving their responses since those panicked early days in March and April.

Keep reading... Show less

Republicans and Democrats react to Amy Coney Barrett's confirmation

President Trump said Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court and her subsequent taking of the constitutional oath Monday was a "momentous day," as she she vowed to serve "without any fear or favour."

  • But as Republicans applauded the third conservative justice in four years, many Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) warned of consequences at the rush to confirm a replacement for the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the Nov. 3 election, with progressives leading calls to expand the court.
Keep reading... Show less

CRISPR pioneer: "Science is on the ballot" in 2020

In her three decades in science, Jennifer Doudna said she has seen a gradual erosion of trust in the profession, but the recent Nobel Prize winner told "Axios on HBO" that the institution itself has been under assault from the current administration.

  • "I think science is on the ballot," Doudna said in the interview.

Why it matters: That has manifested itself in everything from how the federal government approaches climate change to the pandemic.

Keep reading... Show less



Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories