Facebook deletes event for stay-at-home protest in Michigan

The Facebook event page for an upcoming protest against extending Michigan’s state of emergency was deleted by Facebook’s staff for defying the government’s guidance on social distancing.

Protesters plan to gather Thursday morning, April 30, outside the Michigan State Capitol building and call on legislators not to extend the state of emergency, which gives Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and her administration additional executive authority to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

A Facebook event titled “Rally on the State Capitol Lawn” was created earlier this month to organize the April 30 protest, which is slated for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in downtown Lansing.

The protest’s event page was taken down by Facebook’s staff, according to a company spokesperson who said events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook.

Facebook will remove content that advocates for in-person gatherings that defy health guidance, as well as claims that discourage treatment or taking appropriate precautions, according to a spokesperson.

The April 30 event was reported to the company, which triggered a content review. A spokesperson for Facebook said reports to the company are anonymous by rule and Facebook does not report the identity of a complainant.

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

In states like Michigan where social distancing is required for protests during the COVID-19 crisis, Facebook requires protests organized on its site to make clear calls for social distancing. The social media platform has also removed posts on anti-stay-at-home protests in California, New Jersey and Nebraska, according to a report by CNN.

Organizers of the April 30 rally in Lansing have created a second event page after the original event’s removal last week — American Patriot Rally on Capital Lawn. It’s scheduled for the same time on the same day as the previous event.

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