Facebook Removes Coronavirus Misinformation but Will Only Ban Lockdown Protests If They Violate Social Distancing

"Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook," a company spokesperson tells Reason.


Facebook will remove coronavirus-related misinformation that directly threatens imminent harm, CEO Mark Zuckerberg told ABC News. But contrary to several media reports, Facebook is not taking action against all lockdown protests that are being organized on the site.

"Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook," a company spokesperson tells Reason. "For this same reason, events that defy government's guidance on social distancing aren't allowed on Facebook."

This is slightly but critically different from what was reported by The Hill, which made it sound like Zuckerberg had endorsed some kind of blanket ban on anti-lockdown activism:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday told ABC's George Stephanopoulos that protests against stay-at-home orders organized through his social media site qualify as "harmful misinformation" and are taken down.

Zuckerberg's answer to Stephanopoulos—who had asked about protests that explicitly violate social distancing—was actually more complicated than that. Here was the exact exchange:

Stephanopoulos: How do you deal with the fact that Facebook is now being used to organize a lot of these protests that defy social distancing and defy social distancing guidelines in states? If someone is trying to organize something like that, does that qualify as harmful misinformation because it defies social distancing?

Zuckerberg: This is an important question. If someone is spreading something that is misinformation—certainly, someone saying that social distancing is not effective to help limit the spread of coronavirus—we do classify that as harmful misinformation and we take that down. At the same time, it's important for people to debate policies, basically give their opinions on different things, so there's a line on this. But more than normal political discourse, I think, a lot of the things people are saying that is false around a health emergency can be classified as harmful misinformation that has a risk of leading to physical danger, and we will take that down.

At the behest of state governments, Facebook has indeed taken action against some anti-quarantine protests being organized on the site. But that's because those events were being organized in direct violation of state social distancing dictates, Facebook saysIt matters what each state's guidance has been, and it matters whether the event in question is urging participants to take appropriate precautions.

That's markedly different from the idea that all opposition to the lockdowns is being treated as harmful misinformation.

In terms of content, Zuckerberg said that only posts advocating imminently harmful actions would be taken down. He cited a theoretical post recommending bleach as a miracle cure for COVID-19 as an example.

"That's not allowed on our service at all," said Zuckerberg. "There have been thousands and thousands of pieces of content like that we have to take down."

Again, the panic-stricken reporting about the Big Tech censorship would have people believe that Facebook is removing all content about the coronavirus that doesn't toe some government-approved line. But while there are bound to be times when Facebook makes a bad moderation call, on paper, its policy is reasonable.

NEXT: Coronavirus Finally Gets Trump To Admit Americans Pay His Tariffs

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  1. when will people let facebook die?

    1. When boomers stop using it to organize protests.

      1. Is there anything that boomers can’t do wrong?

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  2. Can we just get this over with and write a new constitution that prioritizes social distancing above all else. The suspense is killing me.

    1. How about an amendment that requires all socialists to stay twenty feet from any polling place?
      Think of all the lives that would save. 600,000 or so.

    2. Sure. And with the current crop of politicians writing it, the new constitution will be 4,000 pages long and we'll have to ratify it to find out what's in it.

      1. And most of those 4,000 pages will be left to the executive branch to write the actual regulations on which the "rights" will be allowed/enforced.

  3. We are only following the orders of the Government as we define it.

    We don’t agree with the Constitutional right of Assembly, unless it is violent Antifa protests that destroy property and cause injury. Those are approved.

    1. Antifa already has face masks so it's kosher.

      1. And 6 foot long baseball bats too. Although the BO from Antifa is probably enough to keep coronavirus away.

  4. Well, Mark, please explain to me how six feet is medically different from five feet eleven inches.
    Since all we know is that we know nothing because the past 'data' is all propaganda, who picked six feet, and who validated the science behind it? Why is no one advocating seven feet? Surely that would save the proverbial one life?
    Why is social media considered "essential"? Shouldn't we be saving the scarce bandwidth for the poor people in the middle of the country?
    Who is John Galt?

  5. Lions of Liberty interviews Tiger King libertarian Josh Dial

    Good interview if you enjoyed Tiger King

    1. He was the actual libertarian managing Joe Exotic's campaign, right? At least, the guy self declared as such and laid out a basic libertarian platform

  6. What the fuck happened to the idea of liberty, Reason? So, if the state bans protests it is okay for Facebook to assist the state by removing posts about a protest of these policies? Come on I know you like to suck Silicon Valley's dick but this is getting ridiculous.

    1. I doubt FB would dare remove protest posts for pro-abortion or anti-Trump groups, social distancing or not

      1. I strongly suspect you are right. Or counter protests in support of the lockdown. Hell, the government is paying actors to tell us we are all on it together. Can anyone day propaganda?

    2. Well, it's not just if the state bans protests, it's also if it contradicts the state's guidance. I'm not sure what "guidance" is. If it's advice you're required to follow, it's not really just advice is it? "You'd be wise to do this if you'd like to stay out of jail" is maybe more of an order.

      1. Yeah, 1984 newspeak. It is only advise enforced at the point of the gun and alphabet soup is defending Facebook.

    3. my thoughts too. Between this and the drones, I'm thinking we need to remind the politicians who the country is for.

  7. Fuck, Robby wrote this. I would have pegged Shikha because Robby is generally a little more introspective. Fuck you Soave.

  8. "Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook," a company spokesperson tells Reason.

    Let's just skip right over the question of whether or not it's constitutional for the government to prohibit people from exercising their first amendment rights.

    1. Yeah, Soave who writes quite often about campuses banning free speech seems to have missed that aspect. SMH. This is the worst fucking take I've seen on Reason in awhile.

      1. I think you two are overreacting. What surprises me the most is any big tech business defending any liberty against the government when it doesn't benefit them. Look at Google, so happy to remove all sorts of news from their news site, or anything related to guns from their shopper. They finally got a little bit of spine when the EU was going to make them pay for news linking. Twitter bans people for the slightest non-Progressive attitude. Facebook is a small breath of fresh air in comparison, and that's what this article is about, to me.

        1. Overreacting? So we only are going to allow protests that are government sanctioned? And Facebook is okay with that? That is totes libertarian and totes consistent with the Constitution and 1A. Fuck you are usually more consistent than this. Or are you one of those who believes that it is okay for private business to help the government decide what speech is allowed and what isn't?

      2. It really is terrible. Tuccille has been the only one with consistently decent takes on this stuff.

        1. Yeah Tucille's take was much more consistently libertarian. I am ashamed for alphabet soup who generally is more introspective then his defense of Facebook's policy of aiding the government to stifle free speech the government doesn't agree with or allow.

          1. I mean, Facebook can lick fascist boot if they want- they are not BOUND by the constitution. But we can sure as hell call them out and think they are evil garbage for doing so as well.

            And the whole tone of this article is just so weird- "Wait, wait guys, you have it all wrong- Facebook isn't banning anti-lockdown protests! They are only banning them if the government says they don't like them! Or if you are choosing not to voluntarily take the government's COMPLETELY FRIENDLY advice. See? Not creepy and fascist at all!"

            1. LOL on point, sir.

            2. Exactly!

  9. Hard to admit it, but compared to Google, Twitter, and all the damned statists so happy to censor everything not approved by Big Brother, Facebook and Zuckerberg have been relatively libertarian.

    1. Until now.

      1. No, especially now. If Facebook had been following Twitter or Google, those groups would have been banned right from the start. Facebook and Zuckerberg are not libertarian or even general purpose freedom lovers, but they have shown more spine and willingness to tell the snowflakes to buzz off than anybody else big.

        1. So instead they just will remove any mention of speech or protests that the government seems inappropriate? How is that at all libertarian or consistent with Free Speech? Is Free Speech only speech that is government approved? Facebook is doing the bidding state governments issuing unconstitutional orders banning protests and speech. Keep grasping at straws there. This is totally an indefinsible take on your part.

          1. Jeezus can yee not view everything in black or white terms? Facebook is better than Google and Twitter and the others, is that not a step in the right direction?

            Let not perfection get in the way of better.

            1. I don't see how this is any better. It is still assisting the government in tyranny. Would it be any better if all the other ones were reporting anyone with a Hispanic sounding name to ICE but Facebook only reported those that post about being illegal? How is this really different? Jeez, how can you call yourself a libertarian and be okay with a private company aiding the government in suppressing speech the government doesn't approve of? How? Not the others are worse, but how can you defend that policy in and of itself?

              1. Because the veneer is one of concern, reasonable concern, understandable concern, humanist concern, for people's safety. They're selling totalitarianism with good packaging, and the packaging won him over.

        2. don't mistake personal benefit for morals. The Zuck chose not to do it up until now because it was more profitable to be openly against anyone not politically left. Now he's seeing endgame stuff happening with some of these statist governors and he's throwing in.

  10. No, what he just said is nonsensical. Constitution trumps laws. The right to peaceably assemble is in the constitution. Facebook is removing protests that do not violate the law as the law must bend to the constitution.

    1. Yes, but they are not sucking government cock as much as Google, Twitter, and the others.

      1. But they are still sucking it. Sucking it a little bit, and assisting in the governments attempt to stifle speech is no more defensible then what Google et al are doing.

        1. Better is always more defensible than worse. Try sucking on reality for a change, and applaud improvement that is not yet perfection.

          1. So ignoring the Gestapo hauling away your Jewish neighbors is more defensible tham calling the Gestapo to haul them away? No caving to tyranny, aiding tyranny is not a matter of degree, it is still tyranny.b

        2. Sucking a little bit? Sure. At the point of a gun, that don't make you queer for Big G, Zuckerberg.

          It's the gargling of the nutsack. That crosses the line.

        3. Facebook has also been explicitly threatened in Congressional hearings that there will be consequences if they do not. I am not saying Facebook is great on these issues, but they are walking a line here tat is not entirely of their own choosing.

      2. In what way? Google bans guns not because of government, but because they are liberal assholes. But Facebook is literally saying "If government says you shouldn't assemble, we ban you". They are specifically saying that they will consult with the government to decide whether or not your event can happen.

        1. Yes, that is far worse then them doing it of their own accord and beliefs. No, they are doing it to aid the government in enforcing tyranny.

  11. That's such a great step against coronavirus of Mark Zuckerberg on Facebook, it contains panic & stress for the people.

  12. Yeah, don't use Facebook. Don't use Twitter. It's making you all retarded.

    1. mmmmmhmmm this ^^^^^

  13. If someone is spreading something that is misinformation—certainly, someone saying that social distancing is not effective to help limit the spread of coronavirus—we do classify that as harmful misinformation and we take that down. At the same time, it's important for people to debate policies"

    "Oh, very well. I'm not saying that social distancing is not effective; I'm merely debating the policy of social distancing."

    1. Good luck with that.

      Not even real live scientists who study these sorts of things for a living (as opposed to government experts who study policy for a living) can debate social distancing without getting flagged.

      I had an article removed for such a reason.

  14. Bullshit.

    I had a post flagged as “partly false” (by USA Today of all fucking rags) specifically because it didn’t toe the government lion. That literally was the only qualm. That government approved “experts” disagreed with non-government epidemiologists.

    The idea that they’re only flagging/removing “harmful“ posts is a complete crock of shit.

    Here’s the original that got flagged....

    1. They are removing all sorts of stuff that even just barely deviates from the panic narrative. It's ridiculous how so many posts are fact-check blocked just because some part didn't fully adhere to the current narrative (ignoring fact and logic)

  15. In the period of quarantine improve your skills in the field of automotive.

  16. "Stephanopoulos: How do you deal with the fact that Facebook is now being used to organize a lot of these protests that defy social distancing and defy social distancing guidelines in states? If someone is trying to organize something like that, does that qualify as harmful misinformation because it defies social distancing?"

    How about that the employees of Facebook are not omniscient and do not have the knowledge to determine what is misinformation. There is a rather creepy aspect to the premise of Stephanopoulos' question that what he deems "misinformation" should not be allowed a forum. If determining what misinformation was as obvious to determine as the question implies, it would not be a problem as everyone would recognize it.

    1. So,in Stephanopoulos' view, should the assertion that facemasks are ineffective be considered not misinformation a month ago but misinformation now?

  17. Maybe if Zuck had been around in the 60's, that State Cop wouldn't have shot Jimmie Lee Jackson at the Pettus bridge.

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