Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg joined George Stephanopolous on "Good Morning America" today to talk about Facebook’s work in containing and preventing the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. In addition to a partnership with Carnegie-Mellon University on user-reported surveys of symptoms that can isolate hotspots, the social media giant is also combating misinformation.
Stephanopolous asked Zuckerberg how he felt about users making use of the site to organize protests against the social distancing regulatory overreach of governors and local officials. He asked if these protests amounted to harmful information. Many groups have done this.
In Michigan, the Michigan Conservative Coalition put together protests against Governor Whitmer, whose level of overreach was mentioned by President Donald Trump during one of his daily coronavirus press conferences. Whitmer has forbidden the sale of seeds as a non-essential, but has allowed the state lottery to continue.
In North Carolina, ReOpenNC has used Facebook to organize protests against the ongoing business shutdowns. In Ohio, as well as other states that are less impacted by the virus than New York, citizens are demanding their lives back.
Apparently, protesting and organizing protests is now considered part of a misinformation campaign, instead of a right vouchsafed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.
Zuckerberg told Stephanopolous “We do classify that as harmful information and we take that down. At the same time, it’s important that people can debate policies, but there’s a line on this. But more than normal political discourse, I think a lot of the stuff that people are saying that are false around a health emergency like this can be classified as harmful misinformation.”
While Zuckerberg notes that debate is an essential component of discourse, it is peculiar that he views Facebook’s role as a site that vets misinformation to include choosing a specific narrative and upholding that over others. If instead of a global pandemic, the cause celeb was a global war, or a worldwide recession, would Zuckerberg still believe that there was only one appropriate response from the Facebook user base and the rest of what was said should be taken down?
Despite the going leftist media narrative, there are in fact many disparate views on the coronavirus pandemic. As time goes on, and businesses stay shut, with people festering away in their homes unable to leave for more than a walk or shop visit, to socialize, or to earn a living, the consequences of the shutdown begin to stand out in relief against the costs of the pandemic.
Whether the cost of the shutdown is more expensive in human life and livelihood than the cost of the coronavirus illness is yet to be seen. But one thing that the protesters are making clear is that the rights of citizens in democratic republics are being shunted and squashed by little tyrannical governors and law enforcers. They see their jobs as the protection of life, but what the protesters organize to tell them is that being prevented from working, worshipping, and going about daily life has a real sacrifice that cannot be ignored.
For those that can sit home and wait this thing out, the question is really easy. They can squeal on their non-social distancing neighbours, work from home, help their kids with remote learning. But these are not the only people who exist in society, and for so many others—small business owners, minimum-wage earners, this is a crisis that cannot be sat out.
Zuckerberg and his crowd of misinformation watchers should be aware that there is more than one perspective, and protest in these United States can never be censored.