Facebook has suspended one of the platform’s largest anti-mask communities for breaching the rules against sharing rumors around COVID-19. Public group about section Unmasking America! — Which had more than 9,600 members — described it as “spreading TRUTH over masks here!” You are complicit in branding all humans as unhealthy, contagious and harmful while you wear a mask, “the post said.
It’s one of the hundreds of these groups identified conveniently in a Facebook “unmasking” search. Many of the groups are anonymous, meaning that members must be accepted by a community manager before they can participate. Yet the trend is the same: The associations condemn the scientific experts’ public health interference. The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that people wear masks in all public spaces, which will restrict the virus’ spread. Such Facebook groups are built for people who don’t want to wear masks, and there are plenty.
The intervention from Facebook came after a request from The Verge about the party. “We have clear policies against promoting harmful misinformation about COVID 19 and have removed this group while reviewing the others,” Facebook spokeswoman Dami Oyefeso said in an email.
The Unmasking America Facebook page featured reports with photos with participants sporting masks emblazoned with the symbol Make America Great Again, or other references to President Trump, usually as a way to oppose mask criteria. Some posts mentioned encounters with stores needing masks, and several posters questioned how to demand an “exemption” from the laws of the masks. A related illustration of a “Face Mask Exempt Stamp” issued by the “Freedom to Breathe Agency;” one poster urged others to “print it, laminate it, and use it. The number is legitimate.
The “Million Unmasked March” party, which has more than 7,800 participants, is amongst private parties. “Parents are big! We are a group of mothers, fathers, grandparents, uncles, aunts, coaches, relatives, nurses, and everyone who cares for our children wearing school masks in the fall, “reads the segment on” for “the party. However, medical experts say that there are very few medical reasons to prevent most people when they go out in public from wearing cloth face coverings. About two dozen states now have some sort of requirement for public masks in place. And President Trump, who was generally opposed to wearing a mask in public, tweeted on Monday that it was “patriotic to wear a face mask because you cannot separate yourself from society.”
The organization published a paper in May detailing its use of artificial intelligence along with human fact-checkers and moderators to uphold its group expectations. According to the study, Facebook put warning labels on 50 million COVID-19-related content pieces in April, and since 1 March it has deleted more than 2.5 million pieces of content relating to mask purchases, hand sanitizers, and COVID-19 test kits.