Zuckerberg: Some stay-at-home protests organized on Facebook could qualify as ‘harmful misinformation’

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos that protests of stay-at-home orders that violate state social distancing rules organized through his social media platform qualify as “harmful misinformation” and will be taken down.

“How do you deal with the fact that Facebook is now being used to organize a lot of these protests to defy social distancing guidelines in states?” the “Good Morning America” anchor asked Zuckerberg. “If somebody trying to organize something like that, does that qualify as harmful misinformation?” 

“We do classify that as harmful misinformation and we take that down,” Zuckerberg said. “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.”

A spokesperson for Facebook told The Hill that the events would only be taken down if they violate state laws, meaning that many protests against social distancing guidelines could continue to be organized on the platform unless they break the guidelines themselves.

For example, pages for demonstrations carried out in cars that seek to block traffic are allowed to stay up. According to NBC News, several such events are still up on the platform.

“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook,” the spokesperson said. “For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook.”

The comments from Zuckerberg came after President Trump and the White House coronavirus task force last week unveiled a three-phase plan for reopening the U.S. economy, with individual governors ultimately deciding how and when the phased reopenings would occur based on specific criteria levels.

“You’re going to call your own shots,” Trump told governors during a conference call. “We’re going to be standing alongside of you.”

But in a flurry of tweets on Friday, Trump seemed to back protesters in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia, who have taken to the streets to speak out against what they deem as stay-at-home orders that are too restrictive while calling on their respective state economies to reopen.

“LIBERATE MINNESOTA,” Trump tweeted, followed by a tweet reading, “LIBERATE MICHIGAN!”

“LIBERATE VIRGINIA, and save your great 2nd Amendment. It is under siege!” read another tweet.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D) accused the president of “fomenting domestic rebellion.”

The U.S. death toll from the novel coronavirus surpassed 40,000 over the weekend, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

Chris Mills Rodrigo contributed.

Updated at 12:41 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus Donald Trump Facebook George Stephanopoulos Jay Inslee Mark Zuckerberg Protests Social media stay-at-home

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