WebMD News Brief

Facebook Removes Anti-Maskers for Misinformation

photo of Facebook

July 22, 200 -- Facebook removed one of the largest anti-mask groups on the site — called Unmasking America — for violating its policies against spreading misinformation about COVID-19, according to The Verge.

The suspension came after the news outlet asked about the group. Facebook has pledged to combat misinformation about the coronavirus on its apps, including Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp, and ban exploitative ads for face masks, hand sanitizer and COVID-19 test kits.

“We have clear policies against promoting harmful misinformation about COVID-19 and have removed this group while we review the others,” Dami Oyefeso, a spokesperson for Facebook, told The Verge by email.

Dozens of anti-mask groups exist on Facebook, and the Unmasking America group had more than 9,000 members. Several posts made false claims that masks obstruct oxygen flow and create negative psychological consequences. Others posted photos of masks with the “Make America Great Again” slogan, and many people asked about ways to claim an exemption from face mask rules.

Several posts included a “Face Mask Exempt Card” from the “Freedom to Breathe Agency.” However, no agency with that name exists, and law enforcement officials have said that these cards “do not carry the force of law,” according to The New York Times.

In April, Facebook announced that it would add a warning label to posts with fake information about the coronavirus. The company updated the announcement in May and said that their independent fact-checking partners put labels on 50 million pieces of content and 7,500 articles. The company has also removed 2.5 million pieces of misleading content about the sale of masks, hand sanitizers and test kits.

On Monday afternoon, President Donald Trump posted a photo of himself wearing a face mask and encouraged others to do the same.

“We are United in our effort to defeat the Invisible China Virus, and many people say that it is Patriotic to wear a face mask when you can’t socially distance,” he wrote on Twitter.

WebMD Health News Brief Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 22, 2020

Sources

The Verge, “Facebook suspends anti-mask group for spreading COVID-19 misinformation.”

Facebook, “Keeping People Safe and Informed About the Coronavirus.”

The New York Times, “Mask Exemption Cards From the ‘Freedom to Breathe Agency’? They’re Fake.”

Facebook, “An Update on Our Work to Keep People Informed and Limit Misinformation About COVID-19.”

Donald J. Trump, “Facebook post, 3:43 p.m. on July 20, 2020.”

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