Facebook shuts down Danish coronavirus protest group

er Facebook has shut down a Danish group pushing for shops to reopen on Monday in defiance of restrictions after members questioned the value of social distancing.

Facebook shuts down Danish coronavirus protest group
Facebook has increased its monitoring of groups. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP
The group, 'National Reopening on February 15th', had reached close to 10,000 members, many of whom run small shops, hairdressers and beauty salons, by the time Facebook decided to close it down on Friday. 
Peter Münster, Facebook's head of communications in the Nordics, said that while protest groups had every right to operate on Facebook, they were not permitted to spread incorrect health information. 
“You cannot say that the coronavirus crisis is a hoax or that it does not exist,” he said in a statement. “As soon as there is harmful misinformation which entails a definite health risk for people, we remove it,” he said. 
The group's founder, Torkil Poulsen, an entrepreneur from Odense, told the Politiken newspaper after the closure that Facebook had behaved “like a dictatorship”. 
But on Sunday he told The Local that Facebook's move had, if anything, helped him publicise Monday's protest. 
“I've been doing interviews in all the newspapers, and the radio and the television, so now it's just a question of letting the story run, and we are of course reaping the benefit,” he said. 
“I think it will be very big,” he said. “I suppose that there will be over a thousand companies that will open up tomorrow.” 
Poulsen said that Facebook had justified closing his group by pointing to comments questioning the value of social distancing and hand hygiene, which the social media network had argued went against the advice of the World Health Organisation. 
Poulsen said that he was neither sceptical of the existence of coronavirus, or of the effectiveness of such measures. 
“I know of course that it works, but we can't live that way,” he said. “You can't live with such distance to people. We have to open up and live in love and peace and not in distance and fear.” 
Although he has not himself set up a new Facebook group, several copycat groups have been launched by others promoting Monday's protest. 
“We self-employed have had enough of this false pandemic, therefore we will reopen Denmark on 15 February 2021. Restaurants, shops, everything in the whole of Denmark,” one of the new groups says in its description. 
Münster told Ritzau that there was nothing to prevent people whose groups had been removed from opening a similar group, although he warned that those new groups would also be removed if they, too, violated the company's guidelines. 
“You can't come back with a new, identical group if it still violates the rules, but you can start all over again if you agree to comply with the rules,” he said.

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Greenland foreign minister axed over independence remarks

Greenland's pro-independence foreign minister Pele Broberg was demoted on Monday after saying that only Inuits should vote in a referendum on whether the Arctic territory should break away from Denmark.

Greenland foreign minister axed over independence remarks
Greenland's pro-independence minister Pele Broberg (far R) with Prime Minister Mute Egede (2nd R), Danish foreign minister Jeppe Kofod and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (2nd R) at a press briefing in Greenland in May 2021. Photo: Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix

Prime Minister Mute Egede, who favours autonomy but not independence, said the ruling coalition had agreed to a reshuffle after a controversial interview by the minister of the autonomous Arctic territory.

Broberg was named business and trade minister and Egede will take on the foreign affairs portfolio.

The prime minister, who took power in April after a snap election, underscored that “all citizens in Greenland have equal rights” in a swipe at Broberg.

Broberg in an interview to Danish newspaper Berlingske said he wanted to reserve voting in any future referendum on independence to Inuits, who comprise more than 90 percent of Greenland’s 56,000 habitants.

“The idea is not to allow those who colonised the country to decide whether they can remain or not,” he had said.

In the same interview he said he was opposed to the term the “Community of the Kingdom” which officially designates Denmark, the Faroe Islands and Greenland, saying his country had “little to do” with Denmark.

Greenland was a Danish colony until 1953 and became a semi-autonomous territory in 1979.

The Arctic territory is still very dependent on Copenhagen’s subsidies of around 526 million euros ($638 million), accounting for about a third of its budget.

But its geostrategic location and massive mineral reserves have raised international interest in recent years, as evidenced by former US president Donald Trump’s swiftly rebuffed offer to buy it in 2019.

READ ALSO: US no longer wants to buy Greenland, Secretary of State confirms

Though Mute Egede won the election in April by campaigning against a controversial uranium mining project, Greenland plans to expand its economy by developing its fishing, mining and tourism sectors, as well as agriculture in the southern part of the island which is ice-free year-round.

READ ALSO: Danish, Swiss researchers discover world’s ‘northernmost’ island