Donald Trump Jr. Calls Out Facebook For Removing Stay-At-Home Protest Posts

Photo: Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock.
After weeks of protests against shutdowns around the country, an unexpected advocate of free speech has emerged — and it's a member of America's First Family. Citing frustrations with Facebook for removing posts involving several anti-stay-at-home protests, Donald Trump Jr. is calling out the tech company on behalf of the First Amendment.
Following protests in Michigan, Minnesota, and Virginia — states which Trump Sr. called to "liberate" just last week — more cities began seeing organized efforts to combat what they believe are strict quarantine measures. Trump Jr. responded to concerns that organizing efforts were interrupted or stopped because of social media monitoring in a serious condemnation of Facebook. On Monday, Trump Jr. tweeted that Facebook is “colluding with state governments to quash peoples free speech.”
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In the tweet, Trump Jr. also stated, “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.”
Trump Jr.'s tweet came in response to reports that Facebook took steps to block protesters from using its platform to organize in-person rallies in California, New Jersey and Nebraska, but has not blocked users from utilizing its platform to organize in places like Michigan, Texas, and Virginia, where people have also been rallying.
According to Politico, Facebook indicated that it had removed information that users had posted about anti-shutdown protests at the request of states whose authorities said they violated restrictions on large public gatherings. Later, the company clarified it also sought guidance from states but made the decision to take the posts down independent from state mandates. 
In an interview with ABC News, CEO Mark Zuckerberg suggested that Facebook removes content that disputes social distancing practices and poses the risk of physically harming people. “Certainly, someone saying that social distancing is not effective to help limit the spread of coronavirus, we do classify that as harmful misinformation and we take that down. At the same time, it's important that people can debate policies,” Zuckerberg said.
Trump Jr. has now taken on the cause of fighting for protestors' right to free speech, calling the company's actions "very dangerous!" But, the social media platform has taken heat in the past for failing to properly moderate political content on its platform before. This past year, Facebook came under fire for letting candidates post ads with false information on their site and did not remove those ads, citing the same free speech laws.
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However, Facebook's obligation as a private company is not necessarily to maintain free speech. While Trump Jr. is correct that the First Amendment protects people’s free speech, the fact is that Facebook is a private corporation and operates in its own lane means that they are technically able to only allow users abiding by the site's guidelines to continue posting as they see fit.
In a statement from a Facebook company spokesperson sent to Refinery29, they said, "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."
As nurses and healthcare workers reported being shut out from hospitals following protests in states like Michigan called "Operation Gridlock," and reports indicate that protestors could actually end up spreading the novel coronavirus even further, Facebook's stance seems to err on the side of safety and protection, though it remains to be seen whether or not these efforts to moderate online discourse will continue in light of new backlash.

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