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Facebook Removes Coronavirus Protest Pages at Request of States

(Dado Ruvic/Reuters)

At the request of state governments, Facebook has removed pages promoting protests against state quarantine orders put in place to combat the coronavirus.

The mammoth social media company has removed posts promoting protest events in California, New Jersey, and Nebraska, which called on people to gather in person to demonstrate against government social distancing measures they feel are too restrictive.

“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 spokesman for the social media company said.

Protests demanding that businesses and schools be allowed to reopen broke out over the weekend in a number of states currently weathering stay at home orders. Demonstrations, several of which blocked traffic around state capitols, occurred in Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, New Hampshire, Maryland, Utah, Minnesota, Idaho, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, California Michigan, Arizona, Washington and Texas.

The protests followed several tweets from President Trump calling to “liberate” Minnesota, Michigan, and Virginia. Some demonstrators appeared to be Trump supporters and sported Trump campaign flags, and many carried American flags.

Facebook announced that the company is currently attempting to get information from New York, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania about whether upcoming protests break social distancing measures put in place by the states. However, a representative for Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services told FOX Business the state has not yet heard from Facebook regarding this issue and a spokesman for Ohio governor Mike DeWine suggested the state will not move to quash protests.

“The Governor values the First Amendment and asks that protesters practice social distancing by standing at least 6 feet apart,” the spokesman said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Monday that his company is working to remove posts that attempt to promote or organize in-person protests that violate coronavirus social distancing measures.

“We do classify that as harmful misinformation and we take that down,” Zuckerberg said during an appearance on ABC. “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.”

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