Civics: Facebook limits (protest) free speech

Steven Overly:

The spokesperson said Facebook had been instructed by those state governments that the events are prohibited under the lockdown and social distancing orders that authorities have issued in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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

The statement followed confusion over whether states had instructed Facebook to remove the protests from its platform. Earlier Monday, a spokesperson said that “events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook” and had been removed following guidance from individual states.

The office of New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy told POLITICO it consulted with the company but did not advise it to remove the protests. A spokesman for Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Facebook reached out last week regarding the state’s social distancing policies and was provided with publicly available information.

“The [Nebraska] governor’s office is not aware of any Facebook events regarding COVID-19 protests, and has not requested Facebook to pull any events down,” said spokesman Justin Pinkerman.