Protests are erupting across the nation, questioning the erosion of Constitutional rights during state mandates for stay-at-home orders. Now, those groups are being targeted themselves with Facebook deleting their pages.
Facebook is coming under criticism for again censoring speech, this time by removing some pages used to organize the protests.
A Facebook spokesperson told a news outlet on April 20 that the company will let organizers use Facebook to organize events if they follow social distancing guidelines but will remove pages that don’t. Facebook, in essence, has now become a police force to implement local rules on distancing.
“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook. For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook,” the spokesperson said in an email.
Event organizers are required to clearly tell attendees that relevant social distancing guidance should be followed. State officials can contact Facebook to let the company know about social distancing guidance in their state.
The spokesperson said Facebook has removed pages planning protests in several states. She declined to name the states.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg also said on April 20 that pages organizing protests in violation of social distancing measures will be removed from the technology platform.
“How do you deal with the fact that Facebook is now being used to organize a lot of these protests to defy social distancing guidelines in states?” George Stephanopoulos, former Bill Clinton aide and current ABC anchor, asked Zuckerberg on “Good Morning America.” “If somebody trying to organize something like that, does that qualify as harmful misinformation?”
“We do classify that as harmful misinformation, and we take that down,” Zuckerberg said.
“At the same time, it’s important that people can debate policies, so there’s a line on this, you know, more than normal political discourse. I think a lot of the stuff that people are saying that is false around a health emergency like this can be classified as harmful misinformation.”
Social distancing mandates contributed to millions of Americans losing their jobs, and many protesters cited unemployment or economic fears as the main impetus for protesting, along with concerns of rights violations.
Stay-at-home orders have begun to be eased this week.