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By John Zmirak is a Senior Editor of The Stream, June 30, 2017
In the 1980s, direct mail helped Republicans break the Democrats’ stranglehold on Congress. For the past 20 years, online media helped conservatives and Christians locked out of TV networks, big magazines, academia, and government.
In the past decade, social media have let conservatives find each other and voice our views. We did end-runs around the “blue wall” of leftist editors and opinion makers. NBC won’t show the Planned Parenthood videos? Fine. Pro-lifers could put them online and watch them go viral. Schools, bureaucrats, and even churches won’t tell the truth about Islam or immigration? Okay. We’ll post it ourselves. We’ll discredit the censors and happy-talk enforcers.
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
But what happens when the alternative media start censoring us, too? When they partner with governments in Europe to make free expression outright illegal? Then social media accounts can become the sites of police entrapment. The crime scenes for “hate crimes.” A chilling uniformity threatens to drop like an iron curtain. And nothing would make leftists happier. They thrive best when they have the power to turn off our microphones.
And that’s just what apparatchiks at Twitter, Facebook, Youtube and other social media sites have started to do. The latest example of bias involved pro-life activist Lila Rose and her group Live Action. As Live Action reports:
On June 26, Live Action President Lila Rose went on Tucker Carlson Tonight to expose Twitter’s suppression of pro-life messages. For an entire year, the social media giant has been blocking Live Action from purchasing ads to spread facts about abortion chain Planned Parenthood, messages showing that preborn children deserve the right to life, and videos exposing lies commonly told by the abortion industry.
Twitter asserted that Live Action would need to revamp its entire website, deleting foundational material, or create a brand new website before it would be allowed to advertise. Additionally, Twitter insisted that all tweets calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, discussing investigations into Planned Parenthood, and showing ultrasound images of preborn children would have to be deleted. These are the only conditions under which Twitter has said its suppression will be lifted.
Here’s the video of Rose on Tucker Carlson.
Step back for a moment. This isn’t the intranet at a mosque or a company email account we’re talking about. No, it’s a social media platform, Twitter. Which claims to be for general use with no agenda. But it’s demanding that users stop advocating for public policy changes. Like defunding Planned Parenthood. How can Twitter officials possibly justify doing that?
No Excuse Needed
The Washington Times decided to find out. The paper
obtained emails showing examples of tweets that were deemed unacceptable by Twitter ad bots and members of the Twitter sales team.
One tweet, sent from Ms. Rose’s personal account Jan. 18, said “Planned Parenthood is ‘about abortion, not women’s health care.” It included a short, all-text video questioning the extent of Planned Parenthood’s non-abortion health care services.
Let’s set the record straight: @PPact is about abortion, not women’s health care. We can fund more worthy clinics instead. #DefundPP pic.twitter.com/HhRL3gUOlz
An ad bot flagged that tweet for violating Twitter’s “hate, sensitive topics and violence” advertisement policy, according to an email notification.
The policy prohibits, among other things, “inflammatory content which is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction or cause harm.”
A spokesperson for Twitter said the company does not take ideology into account when enforcing its advertisement policy.
“Twitter has clear, transparent rules that every advertiser is required to follow,” the spokesperson said in an email, “and the political viewpoints of an organization do not impact how these rules are applied.”
When asked how the Jan. 18 tweet violated Twitter’s policy, the spokesperson did not respond.
Additional emails showed members of the Twitter sales team flagging tweets about the undercover video investigation into Planned Parenthood conducted by the Center for Medical Progress.
Every Platform Is Shutting Us Down
Facebook is just as egregious as Twitter. Here’s a Fox News piece from 2016 entitled “10 Times Facebook Censored Conservatives.” Back in October, Youtube and Google censored a number of smart, informative videos from the mainstream Prager U series. Back in March, Youtube’s competitor Vimeo yanked 850 videos. Why? They came from a Christian chastity ministry that serves those with same-sex attraction.
The walls are closing in.
There’s a special danger here: The First Amendment may protect us from government prosecution. But it can’t force a private company to change its policies. That’s a private property issue. We wouldn’t even want the government involved.
Remember what happened to Indiana when it tried to protect religious liberty. To North Carolina when it defended women’s privacy in restrooms. That taught us: The left is great at manipulating companies into boycotts and social activism. We stink at pushing back. How many times have Christians exerted influence over businesses? The only instance I know of is the Target boycott in response to its pro-trans policy on bathrooms.
What we really need, and soon: Some of those conservative and Christian donors who drop tens of millions of dollars on presidential races. They need to spend some cash instead as start-up capital. The world needs social media platforms that are genuinely free. Or even that tilt in a conservative, pro-Christian direction. Think of the difference that Fox News made to U.S. politics. We need something comparable as a social media platform, before we find ourselves muzzled outright.
John Zmirak is a Senior Editor of The Stream, and author of the new Politically Incorrect Guide to Catholicism. He received his B.A. from Yale University in 1986, then his M.F.A. in screenwriting and fiction and his Ph.D. in English in 1996 from Louisiana State University. His focus was the English Renaissance, and the novels of Walker Percy. He taught composition at LSU and screenwriting at Tulane University, and has written screenplays for and with director Ronald Maxwell (Gods & Generals and Gettysburg). He was elected alternate delegate to the 1996 Republican Convention, representing Pat Buchanan.