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Some Republicans are blasting Facebook for removing messages posted by anti-quarantine protesters as several communities across the country have pushed back on orders by local governments that have closed businesses and promoted social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The social media giant told Fox News that it consulted with several state governments about the stay-at-home orders that prohibit large gatherings and mandate people only go outside to perform essential activities.
“We reached out to state officials to understand the scope of their orders, not about removing specific protests on Facebook,” a company spokesperson told Fox News in a statement. “We remove the posts when gatherings do not follow the health parameters established by the government and are therefore unlawful.
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“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook,” the statement continued. “For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook.”
Dozens of protests have been organized in several states — including California, Michigan and Florida — with many calling for an end to tough restrictions that mandate people stay indoors. Many protesters have gathered on state capitols waving American flags to argue against the closure of businesses, hiking trails, beaches and parks, among other venues deemed nonessential.
Critics have deemed the gatherings irresponsible and selfish as the virus continues to sicken and kill people around the world.
Some Republicans blasted Facebook over its decision to remove posts promoting the protests.
“Why is @Facebook colluding with state governments to quash peoples free speech?” tweeted Trump Jr., who has joined other supporters of the president in accusing Silicon Valley social media companies of suppressing conservative messaging. “Regardless of what you think about the lockdowns or the protests against them, this is a chilling & disturbing government directed shutdown of peoples 1st Amendment rights. Very dangerous!”
Sen. Josh Hawley also voiced his dismay.
“Because free speech is now illegal America?” he tweeted.
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The protesters cause received an endorsement over the weekend from President Trump, who posted a series of tweets advocating the liberation of states such as: “LIBERATE MINNESOTA!” “LIBERATE MICHIGAN” and “LIBERATE VIRGINIA.”