The group, called “LAUSD Parents Against Medical Mandates,” was started by LA Unified School District (LAUSD) parents who oppose medical mandates for schools after the district announced a COVID-19 vaccine requirement for students in September.
Though the LAUSD’s vaccine mandate deadline was pushed back until fall 2022, the Facebook group continued and grew to about 3,000 members.
When the group was active, members shared information regarding vaccine, mask, and testing mandates in schools, as well as other health-related studies and articles.
Group administrator and parent Oksana Sandler told The Epoch Times she and the other six administrators of the group noticed that some posts kept getting flagged by Facebook as “misinformation” or “without context.”
Sandler said such posts, however, included information from “credible sources” such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and mRNA vaccine developer Dr. Robert Malone, who was also recently banned from Twitter.
Though the group was public, Sandler said she and other administrators vetted new members and reviewed each new post.
Eventually, Facebook disabled the group Jan. 5 for allegedly not following “community standards on misinformation that could cause physical harm.”
Sandler said Facebook did not specify which post prompted the group’s suspension.
This comes as Facebook and other social media platforms crackdown on alleged “misinformation” and posts opposing COVID-19 vaccines.
Last summer, Facebook announced it would take action against “vaccine misinformation superspreaders.”
“Any amount of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation that violates our policies is too much by our standards,” Facebook Vice President Monika Bickert said in a post to the site. “Since the beginning of the pandemic across our entire platform, we have removed over 3,000 accounts, Pages and groups for repeatedly violating our rules against spreading COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation and removed more than 20 million pieces of content for breaking these rules.”
Facebook announced in June it would partner with third-party fact-checkers certified through the International Fact-Checking Network.
The platform uses community reports and feedback as well as a keyword search for major news events to gather all relevant posts together before the fact-checkers comb through the posts.
When a post is rated as misinformation by a fact-checker, “Facebook significantly reduces the content’s distribution so that fewer people see it,” according to a post to the site. “We notify people who previously shared the content or try to share it that the information is false, and apply a warning label that links to the fact-checker’s article, disproving the claim with original reporting.”
The page “Reopen California Schools”—which has more than 20,000 members—was also disabled by Facebook in October, though it has since been reinstated.
For Sandler, the shut down of the page, she said, is simply the suppression of an alternative point-of-view.
“Everybody sees it, the censorship that is imposed,” she said.
“You can talk about China and how you cannot speak against their regime,” she said. “But to have it in the country that was built on principles of freedom and for us not to have freedom of speech, for Facebook to tell us what we are allowed and not allowed to say … is disturbing.”
Sandler also said she is disappointed with Facebook’s decision because through the group she found both support and friendship.
When the LAUSD’s vaccine requirement was announced, Sandler said she felt alone in her opposition to the mandate.
She said she didn’t really know other LAUSD parents who shared her concerns about the district’s COVID-19 protocols.
“So I went to Facebook and just typed in ‘LAUSD mandate,’” Sandler said. “Immediately this group popped up, so I joined.”
Sandler said she found not only a host of other like-minded people, but she also found a community of friends.
“Yes, we oppose the mandate, we fight together, but most importantly, we support each other,” she said. “I can’t even tell you how many friends I have made. And we hang out together now with our kids.”
The group also posts on the social media platform Telegram, which is owned by Russian developers Nikolai Durov and Pavel Durov.
Sandler, along with the other administrators, have requested Facebook reverse its decision to disable the group.
A spokesperson for Facebook did not respond to a request for comment by press deadline.