When it comes to policing speech, Facebook often finds itself between a rock and a hard place. Either the social media giant does nothing and allows harmful content to flourish, or it comes down too hard and gets accused of censorship. This week, the company found itself embroiled in another one of these thorny debates when it began cracking down on pages organizing anti-quarantine protests.
In Facebook’s judgement, the groups are defying government-approved social distancing guidelines, and thus pose a threat to public health. However, critics of the move say Facebook is infringing on protesters’ free speech rights.
“Given Big Tech’s history of bias and censorship, I’m deeply concerned that they and government officials are partnering not to protect public health, but to shut down views with which they disagree,” Sen. Ted Cruz said in a statement. “Now, more than ever, companies like Facebook should focus on connecting people, not shutting down communities because they hold different views.”
However, it’s important to note that Facebook isn’t removing all such pages. Instead, it’s mostly removing them in areas where these gatherings explicitly violate local laws. Still, that won’t stop the company’s critics from claiming its censoring political views — while public health advocates will no doubt slam the site for not doing enough.
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