Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg appears to be mobilizing his empire in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
The billionaire tech mogul has been working with state governments to take down anti-quarantine events, producing coronavirus tests through his charity initiative, launching virus tracking maps, as well as making media appearances and publishing op-eds, all in the month since the pandemic took hold of daily life.
Facebook confirmed Monday that it had removed events set up by protestors in Nebraska, California and New Jersey, where thousands of protestors gathered to call for reopening the country.
“Unless government prohibits the event during this time, we allow it to be organized on Facebook. For this same reason, events that defy government’s guidance on social distancing aren’t allowed on Facebook,” a spokesperson for the company told the Post.
Facebook is, however, allowing some protest events to remain on the site, including those covered by government guidelines. Protests where guidelines are still followed, such as when demonstrators remain in their cars with their windows up, are permitted by those states and thus, allowed to stay on the site.
The Facebook founder reiterated as much during an appearance on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Monday morning, that he considered attempts to spread false information during a health emergency as “harmful misinformation.”
“We do classify that as harmful misinformation and we take that down,” Zuckerberg told host George Stephanopoulos.
“It’s important that people can debate policies, so there’s a line on this, you know, more than normal political discourse. I think a lot of the stuff that people are saying that is false around a health emergency like this can be classified as harmful misinformation,” he added.
Zuckerberg also published a Washington Post op-ed on Monday touting his company’s newly launched tracking app, which they built in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University.
The map, which tracks the pandemic county-by-county, was part of a larger campaign by Zuckerberg to prove that data can be used to combat the virus.
“Overall, since experiencing symptoms is a precursor to going to the hospital or becoming more seriously ill, these maps could be an important tool for governments and public health officials to make decisions on how to allocate scarce resources like ventilators and PPE, and eventually when it’s safe to start re-opening society,” he said in a statement.
Zuckerberg said in the op-ed that he had also partnered with the Mila research institute in Montreal and New York University, saying that they are using artificial intelligence to help hospitals better predict what they will need in terms of resources, such as personal protective equipment and ventilators.
“Data like this can unlock a lot of good. Since we’re all generating data from apps and devices every day, there will likely be many more opportunities to use the aggregate data to benefit public health. But it’s essential that this is done in a way that protects people’s privacy and respects human rights,” he wrote.