Large swathes of population across most states in the US have been seen coming out, protesting against stay-at-home orders. Clearly that is a violation of the social distancing norms that one is required to follow in these times, and hence Facebook is taking action. Facebook announced that it will be pulling down a number of posts promoting these protests.
According to the social media giant, events in the states of New Jersey, Nebraska and California defied the measures imposed by the governor and thus have been pulled down from its platform. While state governments have asked people not to attend protests, dozens have taken place over the last few weeks even after a majority (66%) of Americans agree with the restrictions. Protesters are pressing for the opening back up of economies and for non-essential workers to begin working again.
President Trump, in his usual self, showed support for demonstrators and issued a series of tweets calling to “liberate” Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia. Ironically, most of these demonstrations go against the President’s administrations own guidelines. The White House guidelines for opening up state economies recommends that a state record at least 14 days of declining cases before gradually lifting restrictions.
Despite those directions, hundreds of protestors have gathered in front of governors’ mansions to wave U.S flags and hoist signs claiming that the protective measures imposed have infringed on their rights. Organisers of these events have depended on Facebook as a platform for driving turnout to these protests.
While the posts promoting in-person protests are being taken down, events that involve “drive-in” protests or encouraged participants to maintain safe distances will remain on the platform.
“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organised on Facebook. For the same reason, events that defy the government’s orders on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook” said a spokesperson. In essence, the social media giant will align with government directives and remove events that defy guidelines.
Facebook added that its policy relates to events and promotions of these events on their sites. Some Facebook groups where anti-quarantine activists have organised have been allowed to operate. Anti-quarantine groups targeting Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York were created by activist brothers who run guns rights groups in various states. These groups include about 220000 members in total. While protests risking the health of citizens continue to flare up, the move to pull down posts aligns with Facebook’s efforts to curb misinformation about the virus.
As put by CEO Mark Zuckerberg, content suggesting the narrative that social distancing will not effective in containing the virus would be removed from the site as it would “classify as harmful misinformation”.