Facebook removes videos targeting public health officials
Facebook, facing a boycott from advertisers and growing pressure from employees over the posting of material that incites violence, has removed at least four videos targeting public health officials who have called for people to stay home and wear facial coverings to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has long resisted calls to regulate political content on the popular website, which has more than 221 million users in the U.S. But the stepped-up rhetoric of content on the website and an expanding advertising boycott that added Verizon, Unilever, Hershey and Coca-Cola in the last two days has forced Zuckerberg to back down.
Facebook stock fell seven percentage points Friday.
“If we determine the content may lead to violence …. we’re going to take that content down no matter who said it,” Zuckerberg told CBS News.
The videos Facebook removed Thursday were from a group called the Freedom Angels Foundation, which is known for its opposition to California’s efforts to mandate vaccinations. CNN, which reviewed the videos, said the posts make a number of false claims, including that children are being removed from their homes because of the coronavirus, face masks cause people to pass out, and COVID-19 is not a virus.
One video was posted during a protest outside the home of Chris Farnitano, Contra Costa County’s health commissioner.
Dozens of health officials across the county — including Barbara Ferrer, the director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, and Dr. Nichole Quick, Orange County’s top health officer — have received death threats after issuing guidelines for dealing with the coronavirus.
Ferrer found it “disheartening that an increasing number of public health officials across the country are threatened with violence on a regular basis. In my case, the death threats started last month, during a COVID-19 Facebook Live public briefing when someone very casually suggested that I should be shot.”
Quick, citing threats she received, is one of 10 state or county health officials who resigned over the threats. Several others have been assigned security details.
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