In a nutshell: Facebook is banning event listings that organize protests against the government’s social distancing policies. Anti-lockdown rallies have taken place in many states, often attracting thousands of people, and epidemiologists predict the gatherings could cause an increase in Covid-19 cases.
On Monday, Facebook deleted listings for anti-quarantine protests in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska. The company said it would only take down events that violate state guideline, reports the BBC.
"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," a spokesperson said.
A rally in Olympia, Washington State, on Sunday saw over 2,000 people in attendance, many standing in close proximity. Some held signs berating the government for being too harsh in its lockdown measures, while others blamed 5G for the virus—a conspiracy theory that’s led to phone masts being set on fire in the UK.
Protests against social isolation measures have also taken place in California, Colorado, Tennessee, Illinois, Florida, Montana, Wisconsin, Texas, New Hampshire, Maryland, Nevada, Idaho, Minnesota, Kentucky, Utah, Oregon, North Carolina, Ohio, New York, Virginia, Michigan and Oklahoma.
Some have criticized Facebook’s policy, calling it a violation of people’s right to free speech.
Why is @Facebook colluding with state governments to quash peoples free speech?— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 20, 2020
Regardless of what you think about the lockdowns or the protests against them, this is a chilling & disturbing government directed shutdown of peoples 1st Amendment rights. Very dangerous! https://t.co/rnG09TSVhI
Dear Civil Rights Division of @TheJusticeDept:@Facebook is working hand-in-glove with tyrants in state and local governments to retaliate against Americans who are exercising First Amendment rights, by completely censoring (de-platforming) them.— Mike Davis (@mrddmia) April 20, 2020
Earlier this month, Facebook said it would start notifying people who liked, reacted, or commented on coronavirus-related fake news posts. The social network has also partnered with Carnegie Mellon University to launch an interactive Covid-19 map that shows how many people are showing symptoms—not confirmed cases—of the virus on a county-by-county basis.
Image credit: Sky News