The Future of Free Speech: Social Media Blackouts Against Conservative Organizations Are Becoming More Common

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Why did Facebook last month shut down the account belonging to conservative group "Chicks on the Right" after it posted a blog post criticizing White House spokesman Jay Carney?

So far, Facebook hasn't explained its reason for shutting down the page. The social media giant said the group violated Facebook's terms of use, but didn't specify which ones. The organization admitted to using a vulgar word, but Todd Starnes of FOX News noted that dozens of liberal-leaning groups do not receive similar treatment when they use vulgar words to criticize conservatives. Facebook eventually apologized for shutting down the page, saying it was a mistake.

Conservative social media blackouts are becoming more common on a variety of platforms, including Twitter and Google-owned YouTube. Most of the blackouts start when users who disagree with the viewpoints of another user report them as spam, sometimes in organized "flagging campaigns." Sites like Facebook and Twitter function off algorithm-based systems that automatically shut down the flagged sites without explanation.

For example, on Jan. 28  Twitter shut down the account of the National Black Prolife Coalition (NBPC) after it tweeted plans to protest the NAACP's 44th Image Awards.

Leroy Dodd was in charge of NBPC's social media awareness campaign that he launched that day, but after eight tweets between 9:58 a.m. and 11:17 a.m. the NAACP reported the account as spam, prompting Twitter to shut it down. The company revived the account only after Dodd agreed to change his behavior and cease "unmerited mentions and replies."

Dodd resumed tweeting and continued until 6 p.m. when the NAACP reported him again. Twitter suspended NBCP's account for a second time and left it that that way for three days. Dodd said he tried to appeal the suspension and talk directly with the NAACP, both to no avail.

Twitter claims its policy doesn't permit automatic actions. The company stated in a 2009 blog post that spam reports "can't be used to incite an angry mob against an account you don't like.... Our Trust and Safety team will check it out to see what needs to be done." 

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SOURCE: WORLD Mag
Tiffany Owens
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