August 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Facebook is organizing a private meeting of leading social media and internet companies to discuss “election protection” ahead of the November midterms, even as critics say the world’s largest social network is censoring multiple articles of interest to voters.
Facebook cyber-security chief Nathaniel Gleicher has invited representatives of Twitter, Google (which owns YouTube), Microsoft (which owns Bing and MSN), Snapchat, and other companies to a secret meeting at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters, BuzzFeed reports. The report did not reveal a specific date for the meeting.
He seeks a “conversation about information operations, election protection, and the work we are all doing to tackle these challenges,” according to an email obtained by BuzzFeed. The companies would share their own efforts and tactics, discuss the difficulties they continue to face, and decide whether to regularly hold such meetings.
The companies involved have not confirmed the plans to the press, but have held similar meetings in the past to discuss such matters – a responsibility social media adopted following the 2016 election for the stated purposes of combating “fake news” and foreign governments’ covert interference in election debates.
Conservatives suspect the companies’ real goal is to stack the deck in Democrats’ favor, however, citing cases such as several prominent Republicans being temporarily “shadow-banned” on Twitter (while their Democrat counterparts were unaffected), as well as ads from several GOP candidates that Facebook temporarily blocked.
Most recently, PJ Media reports that Facebook blocked attempts by Salena Zito and Jenna Lynn Ellis to share their articles on the legal charges against Trump associates Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort. Zito’s piece argued that the scandals didn’t affect Trump voters’ reasons for supporting him, while Ellis’s argued that Cohen accepting a guilty plea for a campaign-finance violation didn’t prove the Trump campaign broke the law.
Both received a “We removed this post because it looks like spam and doesn’t follow our Community Standards” message. Facebook eventually restored Zito’s article (without explaining the original deletion), while Steve Beynon of the Washington Examiner (where Ellis’s piece was published) said the link is still up on their page. “However, the image is gone,” he added.
The charges against Cohen and Manafort are the latest bullet points in the ongoing debate over attempted Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, and by extension are a major part of midterm election conversations. Democrats say Cohen’s plea deal and Manafort’s tax fraud conviction demonstrate corruption on Trump’s part; conservatives stress that neither case is related to the investigation’s original basis (alleged collusion between Trump and the Russian government).
“Facebook has every right to suppress content as a private platform, but they have to do so openly in their terms and conditions, which should give every user clear notice of the agreement for use,” Ellis told PJ Media. Instead, Facebook is “misrepresenting their user agreement and trying to benefit from conservatives adding to their user numbers to drive up value, but still censor selectively and against users’ reasonable expectations in signing up for the platform.”
Other conservative figures and groups restricted on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and elsewhere since 2016 have included Prager University, the David Horowitz Freedom Center, the “Activist Mommy” Elizabeth Johnston, theologian Dr. Robert A.J. Gagnon, Islam scholar Robert Spencer, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, conservative video bloggers Diamond and Silk, numerous pro-life videos and advertisements, and more.
Critics also cite insiders at Facebook and Twitter who have admitted to intentionally targeting conservative accounts and topics, as well as analyses finding that Facebook’s algorithm changes disproportionately harmed conservatives. A confidential memo written last year by the far-left Media Matters details a comprehensive plan to pressure social media platforms into silencing conservatives, as well.
Condemning social media discrimination, President Donald Trump has vowed that his administration “won’t let that happen,” though it’s unknown how or if the federal government will intervene.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-TX, has urged Congress to repeal social media companies’ special immunity from liability for content they allow on their platforms, which is predicated on absolute viewpoint neutrality. Rep. Matt Gaetz R-FL, has filed an FEC complaint against Twitter on the grounds that shadow-banning him but not his Democrat opponent was the functional equivalent of an illegal corporate donation.