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Facebook accused of ‘colluding with states to quash free speech’ as it shuts down protest pages

Facebook says it will consult with state governments on their lockdown orders and will shut down pages planning in-person anti-quarantine protests if the tech giant determines they’re violating those rules.  

‘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,’ a spokesperson said on the social network’s policy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

Facebook officials said they reached out to states individually to understand their lockdown orders then removed posts that violated those rules.  

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

The tech firm says it will allow protests that abide by social distancing guidelines to go forth, but will shut down the ones that defy those health orders.  

The social network said it has already removed protest messages in California, New Jersey and Nebraska at the urging of state government who said the events violated stay-at-home orders. 

The move has led to outrage from Donald Trump Jr and Republican figures like Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, who claim Facebook is violating Americans’ First Amendment rights.  

Facebook says it will block anti-quarantine protesters from using its platform to organize in-person demonstrations and gatherings, at the request of state governments

Facebook says it will block anti-quarantine protesters from using its platform to organize in-person demonstrations and gatherings, at the request of state governments

Facebook says it will block anti-quarantine protesters from using its platform to organize in-person demonstrations and gatherings, at the request of state governments

However, protests are still being organized on Facebook. A massive protest took place in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Monday afternoon that was organized on the Facebook group 'Pennsylvanians against Excessive Quarantine Orders'

However, protests are still being organized on Facebook. A massive protest took place in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Monday afternoon that was organized on the Facebook group 'Pennsylvanians against Excessive Quarantine Orders'

However, protests are still being organized on Facebook. A massive protest took place in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on Monday afternoon that was organized on the Facebook group ‘Pennsylvanians against Excessive Quarantine Orders’

A representative from Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services said the state has not heard from Facebook in regards to shutting down Facebook-organized protests. Demonstrators pictured ignoring social distancing rules as they defy Gov. Tom Wolf's lockdown on the steps of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania state capitol building Monday

A representative from Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services said the state has not heard from Facebook in regards to shutting down Facebook-organized protests. Demonstrators pictured ignoring social distancing rules as they defy Gov. Tom Wolf's lockdown on the steps of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania state capitol building Monday

A representative from Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services said the state has not heard from Facebook in regards to shutting down Facebook-organized protests. Demonstrators pictured ignoring social distancing rules as they defy Gov. Tom Wolf’s lockdown on the steps of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania state capitol building Monday

Monday's Pennsylvania protest was organized in the Facebook Group 'Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine' led by Ohio gun activist Christopher Dorr, meaning Facebook did not shut the group or page down. That page has over 65,000 members

Monday's Pennsylvania protest was organized in the Facebook Group 'Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine' led by Ohio gun activist Christopher Dorr, meaning Facebook did not shut the group or page down. That page has over 65,000 members

Monday’s Pennsylvania protest was organized in the Facebook Group ‘Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine’ led by Ohio gun activist Christopher Dorr, meaning Facebook did not shut the group or page down. That page has over 65,000 members

Donald Trump Jr let the criticism against Facebook for its new policy, calling it a violation of First Amendment rights

Donald Trump Jr let the criticism against Facebook for its new policy, calling it a violation of First Amendment rights

Donald Trump Jr let the criticism against Facebook for its new policy, calling it a violation of First Amendment rights 

However, many Facebook pages still exist and are planning protests. 

On Monday protesters swarmed the state capitol building in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania in a rally that was organized on Facebook group ‘Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine’, as the state claims it never heard from Facebook in regards to its new policy.  

Facebook said it’s currently attempting to get information from New York, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania on protests that would possibly break social distancing guidelines, according to the National Review.  
A representative from Pennsylvania’s Department of General Services said to Fox Business that the state has not heard from Facebook in regards to protests.
The Pennsylvania protest was organized online by Ohio gun activist Christopher Dorr and his anti-lockdown Facebook group boasts over 65,000 members. He along with his far-right, gun activist brothers Ben and Aaron Dorr run at least four state anti-lockdown pages, it was revealed Sunday. 
In those pages, they rally for the public to protest against state stay-at-home orders.
‘It’s going insane, quite frankly,’ Dorr said from Pennsylvania’s statehouse Monday afternoon to the Philadelphia Inquirer, as protesters swarmed the state capitol building waving Trump 2020 flags and signs that said ‘Give me liberty or give me death’.  
All the Facebook anti-lockdown pages run by the Dorr’s had similar description pages saying: ‘Politicians are on a power trip, controlling our lives, destroying our businesses, passing laws behind the cover of darkness and forcing us to hand over our freedoms.’
A slew of Facebook pages rallying against lockdowns and planning protests are still live

A slew of Facebook pages rallying against lockdowns and planning protests are still live

A slew of Facebook pages rallying against lockdowns and planning protests are still live

This Facebook page entitled 'Americans Against Excessive Quarantine Orders' has over 200 members and is designed for members to 'take a stand' and let 'local, state and federal government know they 'work for US'

This Facebook page entitled 'Americans Against Excessive Quarantine Orders' has over 200 members and is designed for members to 'take a stand' and let 'local, state and federal government know they 'work for US'

This Facebook page entitled ‘Americans Against Excessive Quarantine Orders’ has over 200 members and is designed for members to ‘take a stand’ and let ‘local, state and federal government know they ‘work for US’

This page entitled Michiganders For Liberty has over 365,000 members of locals who stand against lockdown orders

This page entitled Michiganders For Liberty has over 365,000 members of locals who stand against lockdown orders

This page entitled Michiganders For Liberty has over 365,000 members of locals who stand against lockdown orders

One of their pages entitled ‘Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine’ was created on Wednesday and has over 99,000 members, and seeks to host a drive-in rally at the capital next Friday with hundreds of group members pledging to participate.

Such a gathering would defy Wisconsin’s stay-at-home orders which Gov. Tony Evers extended last week through May 26 and is still live online. 

This week a slew of states have taken to the streets and gathered in state capitals to resist orders to close nonessential businesses and for constituents to practice social distancing and stay at home.

Raucous protests were seen in Wisconsin, Colorado, Nevada, Indiana, New Hampshire, Maryland, Utah, Minnesota, Idaho, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia, California Michigan, Arizona, Washington and Texas.  

Last week President Donald Trump fueled the fury over the lockdown orders by tweeting a rally call to ‘liberate’ Michigan, Virginia and Minnesota. 

Republican Missouri senator Josh Hawley said in response to Facebook's move: 'Because free speech is now illegal America?'

Republican Missouri senator Josh Hawley said in response to Facebook's move: 'Because free speech is now illegal America?'

Republican Missouri senator Josh Hawley said in response to Facebook’s move: ‘Because free speech is now illegal America?’

Other social media users commended Facebook for its decision to censor protests that would violate lockdown orders

Other social media users commended Facebook for its decision to censor protests that would violate lockdown orders

Other social media users commended Facebook for its decision to censor protests that would violate lockdown orders

New Jersey’s governor’s office said it did consult with Facebook on the issue but preferred posts not be removed.

‘The Governor’s Office did not ask Facebook to remove pages or posts for events promoting lifting the provisions of the Governor’s stay-at-home order. Please contact Facebook for more information on why they made the decision to remove these posts,’ their office said.  

A spokesperson for the Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts said Facebook did not ask to shut down any protest event pages. 

‘The Governor’s Office is not aware of any Facebook events regarding COVID-19 protests, and has not requested Facebook to pull any events down,’ a spokesperson said. 

‘Facebook reached out last week to learn more about Nebraska’s social distancing restrictions, and the Governor’s staff provided already publicly available information about Nebraska’s 10-person limit and Directed Health Measures.’ 

Ohio’s governor Mike DeWine said the state will not make any moves to stop protests.

‘The Governor values the First Amendment and asks that protesters practice social distancing by standing at least 6 feet apart,’ as spokesman for DeWine’s office said.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Monday new measures to take down tackle ‘harmful’ information shared on the website in light of the coronavirus pandemic. 

‘We do classify that as harmful misinformation and we take that down,’ Zuckerberg said in an ABC interview. 

‘At the same time, it’s important that people can debate policies so there’s a line on this, you know, more than normal political discourse. I think a lot of the stuff that people are saying that is false around a health emergency like this can be classified as harmful misinformation.’ 

However, Facebook’s decision to take down protester posts has been met with severe backlash, with many saying it violates their rights to free speech and expression.   

‘Why is @Facebook colluding with state governments to quash peoples free speech? 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!’ Donald Trump Jr tweeted Monday. 

‘Anti-quarantine protest groups are being removed from Facebook because they violate state orders. Does @Facebook realize that disallowing citizens the right to peaceful assembly is in violation of the First Amendment of our Constitution?’ conservative pundit Candace Owens said. 

‘More suits coming, as Governors order Facebook to censor speech & suppress protests,’ one wary Twitter user warned. 

‘So once again Facebook decides to censor. While I understand the protesters, I do not necessarily agree with all the protests. Some states seem to have gone too far in restrictions, IMO, but can only compare that to my local area situation. Regardless, censorship is wrong,’ another added.  

One Twitter user criticized Facebook for censoring some posts now, but allowing white supremacist groups to have pages on their website. 

‘While they still allow white supremacist groups to use that same platform…Can’t make this up,’ the Twitter user said. 

But some defended the social network, saying it was doing the greater good in light of the pandemic. 

‘GOOD FOR FACEBOOK! This is an extremely smart step to limit the ignorant from endangering those at risk with their completely selfish protests. There is absolutely ZERO evidence suggesting that it is safe for social distancing laws to be relaxed,’ one Twitter user wrote. 

Revealed: The three pro-gun activist brothers behind Facebook groups in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York organizing anti-quarantine protests claiming ‘politicians are forcing us to hand over our freedoms’

Three far-right, pro-gun brothers are behind a slew of anti-quarantine Facebook groups galvanizing protests and urging tens of thousands of followers to decry state lockdowns.  

Ben Dorr, the political director of a group called Minnesota Gun Rights and siblings Christopher Dorr, the director of Ohio Gun Owners, and Aaron Dorr, the executive director of Iowa Gun Owners are behind at least four state anti-quarantine Facebook groups with a combined following of over 200,000 members. 

The three have created Facebook groups calling for protests in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. 

While at first glance the demonstrations cropping up across the nation appear to be organic, the coordination of these brothers on Facebook means they’re actually being engineered by a network of conservative directors. 

Their activism echoes President Donald Trump’s tweets for the governors to ‘liberate’ states on coronavirus lockdowns, claiming states like Virginia have their Second Amendment rights ‘under siege’. 

Three conservative, pro-gun brothers Ben Dorr (above), Christopher Dorr, and Aaron Dorr are running at least four massive state anti-quarantine Facebook groups urging the public to protest. Ben is the political director of a group called Minnesota Gun Rights

Three conservative, pro-gun brothers Ben Dorr (above), Christopher Dorr, and Aaron Dorr are running at least four massive state anti-quarantine Facebook groups urging the public to protest. Ben is the political director of a group called Minnesota Gun Rights

Three conservative, pro-gun brothers Ben Dorr (above), Christopher Dorr, and Aaron Dorr are running at least four massive state anti-quarantine Facebook groups urging the public to protest. Ben is the political director of a group called Minnesota Gun Rights

Christopher Dorr, the director of Ohio Gun Owners

Christopher Dorr, the director of Ohio Gun Owners

Aaron Dorr

Aaron Dorr

Christopher Dorr (left) is the director of Ohio Gun Owners and Aaron Dorr (right) is the executive director of Iowa Gun Owners

The Dorr brothers appear to manage a series of pro-gun groups that range across different states from Iowa, Minnesota to New York. All seek to discredit organizations like the National Rifle Association for being too restrictive on gun safety.  

Ben Dorr created a Facebook group entitled Wisconsinites Against Excessive Quarantine on Wednesday, which now has over 99,000 members.  

Its description says: ‘It’s time to OPEN OUR STATE and STOP Gov Evers’ Excessive Quarantine! Politicians are on a power trip, controlling our lives, destroying our businesses, passing laws behind the cover of darkness and forcing us to hand over our freedoms and our livelihood!’  

Dorr and group members created an event for a drive-in rally at the state capital of Madison next Friday according to a Washington Post report, that has already seen hundreds of members pledge to participate.

The page also guides visitors to a website called ‘Wisconsin Firearms Coalition’ where people are encouraged to join for a fee.  Another page asking users to join a Minnesota group of the Firearms Coalition offered several rates for membership, from $35 to $1,000. 

Chris Dorr created the Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine page, which has more than 14,000 members

Chris Dorr created the Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine page, which has more than 14,000 members

Chris Dorr created the Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine page, which has more than 14,000 members

Aaron Dorr created New Yorkers Against Excessive Quarantine group which has over 24,000 members. In the description page he wrote: While seizing power at a breathtaking pace, Andrew Cuomo is sending NY's economy into a death spiral! This is madness. We are fighting back, with action steps fro New Yorkers who want to make their voices heard'

Aaron Dorr created New Yorkers Against Excessive Quarantine group which has over 24,000 members. In the description page he wrote: While seizing power at a breathtaking pace, Andrew Cuomo is sending NY's economy into a death spiral! This is madness. We are fighting back, with action steps fro New Yorkers who want to make their voices heard'

Aaron Dorr created New Yorkers Against Excessive Quarantine group which has over 24,000 members. In the description page he wrote: While seizing power at a breathtaking pace, Andrew Cuomo is sending NY’s economy into a death spiral! This is madness. We are fighting back, with action steps fro New Yorkers who want to make their voices heard’

Chris Dorr created Pennsylvanians Against Excessive Quarantine that has over 65,000 members and Ohioans Against Excessive Quarantine, which has more than 14,000 members. 

He is listed as the director for the board of Ohio Gun Owners, according to his social media.

‘Chris first got involved in the fight to defend and advance our 2nd Amendment rights back in 2009 in his home state of Iowa where he helped Iowa Gun Owners get “Shall-Issue” law passed in 2010,’ his biography on the Ohio Gun Owners website says. 

Aaron Dorr created New Yorkers Against Excessive Quarantine group which has over 24,000 members. 

The descriptions on all of their pages are practically identical, accusing local governors of abusing power and controlling the lives of constituents.  

Similar Facebook groups have since cropped up in Michigan, Illinois, Texas and Delaware. 

In these Facebook groups some people peddle right-wing conspiracy theories. In the Wisconsin page, members posed the theory that Governor Tony Evers imposed a lockdown to ‘appease pharmaceutical giants’.

The groups also call for ‘drive-in’ protests that practice social distancing but still express dissent towards officials. 

However, these brothers are known to local politicians.

‘The brothers will do anything to fan the flames of a controversial issue, and maybe make a quick nickel,’ Republican Clel Baudler, a former Iowa state legislator, said to the Post. 

The Dorr brothers have bypassed certain laws that require them to register as lobbyists, which makes these Facebook groups appear as if they’re operated by grassroots activism.  

Instagram co-founders launch state-by-state coronavirus tracker that estimates secondary COVID-19 infection rates and shows decline in New York while North Dakota has highest rate 

The co-founders of Instagram want to help parse COVID-19 data with the help of a new website designed to distill information on the virus’ spread in different states across the US.

On a newly launched website called RT.live, co-founders of the social media platform Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger who both left in 2018, use public COVID-19 data to calculate the effective reproduction number, an epidemiological tool that conveys the average number of people likely to be infected by just one person with the virus.

According to Systrom, who spoke with Bloomberg about the new site, the co-founders’ tool uses statistics taken from The COVID Tracking Project which aggregates health data on COVID-19 test results, including whether someone was positive or negative.

Instagram co-founders have launched a website designed to help track the rate of secondary infections on a state-by-state basis across the US (pictured). They hope that it will help contextualize the efficacy of lockdown measures and more

Instagram co-founders have launched a website designed to help track the rate of secondary infections on a state-by-state basis across the US (pictured). They hope that it will help contextualize the efficacy of lockdown measures and more

Instagram co-founders have launched a website designed to help track the rate of secondary infections on a state-by-state basis across the US (pictured). They hope that it will help contextualize the efficacy of lockdown measures and more

Figures displayed next to the charts convey the average number of people who are infected by a single person and according to Systom, can be used to help contextualize how states are fairing on preventing COVID-19’s spread. 

‘If [the number] is above one, that means it’s growing very quickly, and if it’s below one, that means things are under control,’ Systrom told Bloomberg. 

‘We’re trying to take what is a complex topic and boil it down to a simple number that anyone can view from their home.’

The tool highlights a number of interesting trends in states throughout the US including contextual information on hotbeds of COVID-19 like New York.

According to RT.live, the effective reproduction number for the state is currently at 1.0 which is down from an average peak of more than 4.0 people infected by a single person with the virus.

Additionally, the site shows that North Dakota appears to have the highest current effective reproduction number at 1.7 while Vermont has the lowest rate of secondary infections.

While the tool can be used as an estimate, founders note on the RT.live website that the reliability of calculations are still contingent on different factors like the volume of testing in any particular location.

‘Absolute testing levels should not affect this algorithm much, but a fast ramp or decline in testing will affect numbers,’ the website states. 

Founders say they hope the ability to view secondary infection rates with more granularity will allow onlookers to get a more nuanced view of how their actions are affecting the spread of the virus.

‘That’s why this dashboard is so important, because it gives you live insight into the effects of the choices we all make,’ he said.

The website mirrors other initiatives from the tech world to help make sense of the current pandemic.

Both Apple and Google have decided to use location data from their respective GPS apps to help illustrate the effects of COVID-19 related lockdown.

On their own respective websites, the tech giants have been able to show rapid declines in how people commute, the effects on retail, and even how often people are making trips to the grocery store.

Source: Daily Mail US

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