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Free Speech Alliance Provides Examples of Social Media Bias, Principles of Fairness to AG Barr

By Craig Bannister | February 26, 2020 | 1:44pm EST
(Getty Images/Loic Venance)

In an open letter published Wednesday, the Free Speech Alliance voiced its support of Attorney General William Barr’s concerns regarding the practices of giant social media platforms and recommended four principles of online fairness to combat bias.

The letter to the attorney general, signed by leaders of more than two dozen conservative organizations, including Media Research Center President Brent Bozell, documents examples of anti-conservative bias and censorship by Google, Twitter, and Facebook.

“Each of the major social media platforms has an oversized share of influence on the public conversation,” the letter says. Citing Google as an example, the letter notes that more than 90 percent of all search queries worldwide are done through its technology – giving it “the power to alter the public discourse across the world.”

The letter closes by asking the attorney general to consider four recommended principles of social media platform fairness and “best practices”:

1.      Transparency,

2.      Clarity of ‘Hate Speech,’

3.      Truly diverse hiring practices, and

4.      Mirroring the First Amendment

The full letter to Attorney General Barr is presented below.

 

Dear Attorney General Barr,

Last week you pointed out that “No longer are technology companies the underdog upstarts.’ ‘They have become titans of U.S. industry.’” With such power you said, “valid questions have been raised as to whether Section 230′s broad immunity is still needed.”

As conservatives, we do not argue for onerous regulations or burdensome federal legislation. However, as the Media Research Center and the Free Speech Alliance (FSA) have shown, the concerns you raised are quite justified. Consider:  

Google

●       In August 2018, Google whistleblower Zachary Vorhies shared several documents with James O’Keefe and Project Veritas. These documents included a document with a Google Now blacklist, a Google block list, and hundreds of other pages of material from internal Google memos, emails, and guidelines. These policies and lists primarily targeted conservatives. This allegedly impacted the app and not all Google searches.[1] [2]

●       In October of 2018, an 85-page internal Google document leaked to Breitbart argued that in order to prevent certain political events, tech companies would have to start censoring web content. Google’s analysis described a shift from American free speech policy toward one that is more in line with the European tradition: promoting civility, dignity, and editing. [3] [4]

Twitter

●       In January of this year, Twitter censored one of President Trump’s political ads based on his comments at the March for Life. Twitter reportedly labeled the video with a “sensitive content” warning, suggesting it may contain offensive or potentially graphic imagery, despite the fact that it merely showed babies, political candidates, and marches. [5]

●       In December of 2019. Twitter suspended the pro-life news organization LifeSite for violating its “rules” after they tweeted an article about Jonathan “Jessica” Yaniv, a biological male, a transgender activist who recently complained that gynecologists wouldn’t see him as a patient. Twitter claimed that the tweet violated its rules, but didn’t specify which ones. Twitter cites three main categories in its rules: safety, privacy, and authenticity. The tweet about Yaniv was public knowledge, as it cited a tweet Yaniv posted himself. It was authentic, it was not “platform manipulation,” impersonation, or a copyright infringement. The tweet did not “promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people,” which Twitter says it prohibits. [6]

Facebook

●       In August of 2019, Facebook notified the pro-life organization Live Action that two of the company’s videos were marked as “false” by fact-checkers. As a result, Live Action was informed that the page’s outreach would be “limited.” The fact-check, which included opinions from Dr. Daniel Grossman and Dr. Robyn Schickler, stated that abortion was defined as “a procedure to end a pregnancy.” Grossman is on the board for the pro-abortion NARAL, and was a consultant for Planned Parenthood. The message of the videos is based on the opinions of 2,500 pro-life obstetricians and gynecologists. In the end, Mark Zuckerberg admitted there was clearly bias on the part of Facebook against Live Action. [7] [8]

●       The pro-life Susan B. Anthony List has had ads deleted from its Facebook page a total of six times, according to the Daily Caller. On November 1, Facebook apologized for deleting one ad, saying that it was a “mistake,” but then turned around and deleted another ad running in Montana. Previously, Facebook had deleted two ads that were running in Tennessee, Iowa, and Arizona. Eventually, Facebook apologized and restored the ad. [9] [10]

As you are well aware, in August of 2019, the White House found that at least 15,000 people had been directly affected by political censorship online. Indeed, the MRC also has been tracking widespread instances of conservative voices being censored on the social media platform ever since we published our seminal report in April 2018 on the subject: Censored! How Online Media Companies Are Suppressing Conservative Speech.[11] This Special Report was cited four times during a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee on July 17, 2018.

Since the release of that report, the Media Research Center has organized the Free Speech Alliance (FSA) -- a coalition of more than 60 organizations representing tens of millions of Americans, dedicated to combating the censorship of their voices on major social media platforms.

Each of the major social media platforms has an oversized share of influence on the public conversation. Google is just one example. Over 90 percent of all search queries worldwide are done through its technology. Google, by itself, has the power to alter the public discourse across the world. According to research psychologist Robert Epstein, “Google’s search algorithm can easily shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20 percent or more—up to 80 percent in some demographic groups.” [12]

As conservatives, we shy away from advocating for government interference in the free market. However, as you and other leading public policy officials consider the path going forward, we  ask you to consider the principles we have laid out as best practices for dealing with the problems raised by these social media platforms. These principles are:

  1. Transparency: We need detailed information so everyone can see if liberal groups and users are being treated the same as those on the right. Social media companies operate in a black-box environment, only releasing anecdotes about reports on content and users when they think it necessary.
  2. Clarity on ‘Hate Speech’: “Hate speech” is a common concern among social media companies, but no two firms define it the same way. Their definitions are vague and open to interpretation, and their interpretation often looks like an opportunity to silence conservative thought.
  3. Truly diverse hiring practices: Top social media firms, such as Google and YouTube, have chosen to work with dishonest groups that are actively opposed to the conservative movement, including the Southern Poverty Law Center. Those companies need to make equal room for conservative groups as advisers to offset this bias.
  4. Mirroring the First Amendment: Tech giants should afford their users nothing less than the free speech and free exercise of religion embodied in the First Amendment as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court. That standard would enable the rightful blocking of content that threatens violence or contain obscenity, without trampling on free speech liberties that have long made the United States a beacon for freedom.

We will continue to champion these principles and fight against the censorship of conservative voices on the major social media platforms. We applaud your attention to one of the most pressing issues facing our country. We’ll be happy to meet with you to discuss this important issue further.

Sincerely,

L. Brent Bozell III

Founder and President

The Media Research Center

 

C. Preston Noell III

President

Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.

 

Frank Lassee,

President

Heartland Institute

 

Amy Kremer

Chairman, Women for America First

 

David Kupelian

Vice President and Managing Editor

WND

 

Justin Danhof

General Counsel of the National Center for Public Policy Research

 

Frank Gaffney

Founder and President of the Center for Security Policy

 

Gavin Wax

President

New York Young Republican Club

 

Bill Donohue

President

Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights

 

Penny Young Nance

CEO and President

Concerned Women for America

 

Christie-Lee McNally

President

Free Our Internet

 

Hon. George K Rasley Jr

Managing Editor

ConservativeHQ.com

 

Jon Schweppe

Director of Policy and Government Affairs

American Principles Project

 

Kassy Dillon

Founder

Lone Conservative

 

Lady Brigitte Gabriel

Founder & Chairman

ACT For America

 

James L. Martin

Founder/Chairman

60 Plus Association

 

Gary Bauer

President

American Values

 

John-Henry Westen

Co-founder/Editor-in-Chief

LifeSiteNews

 

Steve Jalsevac

Co-founder/Managing Director

LifeSiteNews

 

Mark J. Fitzgibbons

President of Corporate Affairs

American Target Advertising

 

Richard A. Viguerie

Chairman & Founder

American Target Advertising

 

Mat Staver, Esq.

Founder and Chairman

Liberty Counsel

 

Sandy Rios

Director of Governmental Affairs

American Family Association

 

Christie-Lee McNally

Founder and President

Free Our Internet

 

Will Chamberlain

Publisher

Human Events

 

Jonathan M. Alexandre, Esq.

Senior Counsel for Governmental Affairs

Liberty Counsel Action

 

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis

President

60 Plus Association.

 

Kevin Freeman

Founder

NSIC Institute

 

Floyd Brown

Publisher

Western Journal

 

Ed Corrigan

Executive Director

Conservative Partnership Institute

 

Rod D. Martin

Founder and CEO

The Martin Organization, Inc.

 

Charles Copeland

President

Intercollegiate Studies Institute

 

Ryan Bomberger

Co-founder & Chief Creative Officer

The Radiance Foundation

 

Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin (US Army-Ret.)

Executive Vice President

Family Research Council

 

Jenny Beth Martin

Honorary Chairman

Tea Party Patriots Action

 

Elaine Donnelly

President

Center for Military Readiness


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