Facebook continues to allow COVID-19 misinformation that can cause “imminent real-world harm” to spread on its platform, particularly within private groups, despite the platform’s supposed crackdown on such content. Facebook users are now utilizing the platform to organize and promote maskless marches and mask-burning events.
Facebook has struggled to stop the spread of COVID-19 misinformation despite implementing policies against it and pledging to remove content that “could lead to imminent real-world harm.” The platform has struggled to properly enforce these policies, particularly within private Facebook groups, which can be more difficult for Facebook to moderate and for researchers and journalists to track.
Media Matters previously reported on “maskless shopping” events being promoted on Facebook. Now, it appears that Facebook is allowing users to promote additional maskless and anti-vaccine events on the platform, including an upcoming “Million Maskless March & Mask Burning” event in Florida on April 10. The event, which is being organized by ReOpen South Florida and UnMasking America, was promoted by one of the organizers on his Facebook account.
There are at least two dozen posts on Facebook promoting the “Million Maskless March & Mask Burning” and sharing right-wing articles about the event. For example, right-wing media outlet the Daily Wire published an article claiming, “A fed-up Floridian is calling for a million state residents to march on April 10 to ‘mark that date with a celebration of freedom.’” The article has over 400,000 interactions -- reactions, comments, and shares -- on Facebook since March 30. Many of the posts about the event are accessible to the 160,000-plus members of numerous public and private Facebook groups, including anti-vaccine, pro-Trump, anti-lockdown, and anti-mask groups:
- Libertarian Party Mises Caucus of Florida
- Your Vote Counts!
- Patriots United
- Patriots of Texas
- Patriots Post
- Biden is NOT my president
- FREEDOM VS TYRANNY
- Senator Doug Mastriano, We the people ask you to run for governor!
- The Great Awakening
- Shifty Schiff
- Trump Cult Deplorables
- The Deplorables Free Speech
- Patriots Of The LORD
- Build Back Better Florida
- Wake Up America
- Stop Government Overreach in Indiana!
- Millions March Against Mandatory Covid Vaccinations
- Governor Ron DeSantis fan club
- Adams County Patriots
- Open New Jersey Now #NJ4Freedom
- Take Back America
- Trump 2024 Take back America
- Southern Conservatives United
- The 70 Million for Trump 2020
The upcoming event in Florida is one of at least eight similar events that have been promoted and even organized on Facebook. On March 3, anti-vaccine protesters held an event on the opening day of a mass vaccination site in Orlando, Florida. The event was organized using Facebook Events, as were similar anti-mask and anti-vaccine events in Connecticut; Iceland; Kentucky; Manchester, England; and Preston, England.
Facebook users also shared posts calling March “mask burning month” and promoting specific events, including Arizona and Idaho mask-burning events, Free Your Face Florida!, The Charleston Unmasking, and the World Wide Rally for Freedom.