A Facebook group called ‘Unmasking America’ which claimed that masks were a “psychological anchor for suppression” has been suspended by the social media platform under its coronavirus misinformation policies.
“Here to speak the TRUTH about masks!” read the ‘about’ page of Unmasking America. It was just one of many groups on Facebook posting messages decrying mask-wearing as a form of “enslavement,” and inaccurately claiming that donning masks limits the wearer’s oxygen intake.
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Consisting of some 10,000 users, the group was removed after Facebook found that it was spreading false information repeatedly in violation of the tech giant’s policies. Among the postings were ‘mask exemption cards’ from the “Freedom to Breathe Agency.” These cards, sold online, purport to offer the bearer an exemption from donning a mask, but are fraudulent and carry no legal weight. However, they were popular enough that federal officials had to alert the public about them.
“Wearing a face mask posses [sic] a mental and/or physical risk to me. Under the Americans with Disability Act (ADA), I am not required to disclose my condition to you,” read the cards, which misspelled “poses” and cited the incorrect title of the relevant legislation, the Americans with Disabilities Act.
My office has received reports of individuals attempting to use a “Face Mask Exempt Card” to evade Palm Beach County’s mandatory mask order.Please note that such cards have NO legal authority and businesses should not alter their mask policies based on them. 1/ pic.twitter.com/5Oc0s1wAJQ
— Dave Aronberg (@aronberg) July 10, 2020
Unmasking America is one of a plethora of groups that have emerged since the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended in June that people wear masks.
When a group shares “misinformation” repeatedly, Facebook will effectively shadow ban it by lowering its prominence in user feeds and by halting suggestions that people join the group, strangling its growth. During the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook has been under increased pressure to be even tougher on the spreading of false information.