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Facebook removes posts promoting anti-quarantine protests

It’s consulting with governors about whether those events break social distancing orders.
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Facebook has been consulting with governors about anti-quarantine protests that could break states' social distancing rules. The platform has already removed posts promoting anti-quarantine protests in California, New Jersey and Nebraska, CNN reporter Donie O’Sullivan tweeted today. Facebook is reportedly working with New York, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania to determine if anti-quarantine protests break those states’ social distancing rules too.

"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 in a statement provided to Engadget.

Facebook says it will take down posts created through its Events tool if they encourage violating social distancing orders, but it may leave other Facebook posts, including groups about the protests, CNN reports.

“We reached out to state officials to understand the scope of their orders, not about removing specific protests on Facebook,” the Facebook spokesperson said. “We remove the posts when gatherings do not follow the health parameters established by the government and are therefore unlawful.”

Facebook announced plans to fight coronavirus misinformation in January, and it said it would remove claims “designed to discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions.” Posts that encourage people to break social distancing guidelines violate Facebook’s policies. That’s nothing new. But it appears that, after several states saw large public gatherings to protest social distancing orders this weekend, Facebook is stepping up its efforts to remove those posts. 

4/20/2020 3:40PM ET: This story was updated to include comments from Facebook.

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