As the debate over whether coronavirus lockdowns should be lifted continues, social media platforms have been stamping out discourse on the topic and aggressively removing content that questions the need for shelter-in-place.
Facebook has done this by cracking down on stay-at-home protest groups and removing them from its platform.
Today, the platform removed several event pages promoting a stay-at-home protest in Lansing, Michigan, for defying government guidance on social distancing.
And now Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has personally come out in support of lockdown measures during Facebook’s first-quarter earnings call where the company reported better-than-expected earnings.
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“I worry that reopening certain places too quickly before infection rates have been reduced to very minimal levels will almost guarantee future outbreaks and worsen longer-term health and economic outcomes,” Zuckerberg said.
During the call, Facebook also reported that it saw a surge in user engagement because of the coronavirus and admitted that opening the economy back up will likely have a negative impact on engagement levels on the platform.
“We expect that we will lose at least some of this increased engagement when various shelter-in-place restrictions are relaxed in the future,” Facebook said.
Increased user engagement isn’t the only way Zuckerberg and Facebook benefit from extended coronavirus lockdowns.
Facebook is also encouraging its users to provide health data to researchers during the pandemic – a move that makes researchers, governments, and health officials increasingly reliant on Facebook for this data and makes the tech giant a central facilitator of this information.
While shelter-in-place measures are helping Zuckerberg and Facebook increase user engagement levels and cement the platform as a dominant facilitator of health data amid the coronavirus lockdowns, the increased censorship of content that opposes such measures has raised concerns about Facebook‘s role in threatening people’s rights to assembly and ability to question the measures that are being put in place by their governments.