America is increasingly outraged by the manner in which radical Big Tech leftists are censoring conservative and Christian leaders and organizations on nearly every major social media platform.
But what is the secondhand effect of this censorship on consumers – the American people? How much information is being kept from the average social media user?
The answer is an astonishing amount, arguably more information than has ever been purposely withheld from the public in American history.
The Media Research Center's CensorTrack.org has identified and verified over 4,000 individual examples of censorship. For purposes of this study, we looked at only the first quarter of 2022 wherein 172 cases were identified. An analysis of the audiences of those individuals/organizations alone found that in that three-month period, there were no less than 144,301,713 times information was withheld from the American people.
This phenomenon is best thought of as “secondhand censorship.” Secondhand censorship is defined as the number of times that users on social media had information kept from them.
The MRC looked at seven platforms – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Spotify – to calculate secondhand censorship’s impact.
MRC measured the effects of secondhand censorship by adding the number of followers each account had at the time of each censorship case recorded during the quarter. Complete data can be found here.
It must be stressed that the 144 million figure for secondhand censorship is massively understated. It does not include the following:
- Cases of censorship not verified and included in MRC’s CensorTrack database. If the thousands of cases around the country were all identified and verified, the total number would soar.
- The effects of censorship that took place prior to the first quarter of 2022. The biggest example is former President Donald Trump, who was removed from all major social media platforms in early 2021. Based on the size of his Twitter audience alone and the frequency of his tweeting, this would have pushed the Q1 secondhand censorship total into the billions.
- A full accounting of Spotify's censorship of Joe Rogan’s podcast. Spotify removed approximately 70 episodes of Rogan’s podcast, but MRC treated this as only one instance. Rogan had an estimated 11 million regular podcast viewers at the time. Had all 70 episodes been counted, the secondhand censorship number would have totaled 770 million.
Recommendation: As Congress begins serious consideration of Section 230 reforms as well as antitrust legislation, it needs to take into account the real damage these Big Tech giants are doing to America. As this study proves, far from being objective platforms, these giants are exercising a level of censorship unseen in American history. Democracy cannot survive without free speech.
See this link for a breakdown of our first-quarter secondhand-censorship numbers: Secondhand Censorship Breakdown.pdf.
STUDY: THE SECONDHAND-CENSORSHIP EFFECT
From Facebook and Twitter booting former President Donald Trump to Big Tech’s coordinated suppression of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story, Big Tech has consistently engaged in blatant, forceful efforts to police the thoughts of conservative and free-thinking social media users in recent years.
MRC identified 172 individual cases of direct censorship logged in MRC Free Speech America’s CensorTrack database during the first quarter of 2022. CensorTrack has now logged a total of over 4,000 total cases of Big Tech’s direct censorship.
But when Big Tech companies censor an account or its posts, every one of the censored account’s followers are unable to see the perspectives of the targeted account, or the account’s posts are obscured such that they’re suppressed and more difficult to view. The consequences of this “secondhand censorship” are broad authoritarianism, mass thought-control and a restricted marketplace of ideas.
MRC Free Speech America found at least 144,301,713 times that users on social media had information kept from them in the first quarter of 2022, according to CensorTrack data.
MRC used CensorTrack to tally the number of social media users affected each time Big Tech censored an account or its posts. MRC also tabulated secondhand censorship by platform and by topic.
The biggest purveyors of secondhand censorship in the first quarter of 2022 were Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. During that time, more Facebook users suffered secondhand censorship than on any other platform. Using our CensorTrack database, MRC Free Speech America determined that secondhand censorship affected Facebook users 86,764,526 times, YouTube users 23,543,230 times and Twitter users 17,065,054 times in the first quarter.
MRC also found that secondhand censorship affected Spotify users at least 11,000,000 times, Instagram users 3,828,826 times, TikTok users 2,083,866 times and LinkedIn users 16,211 times during the first quarter of 2022.
Secondhand censorship during the first quarter cascaded across the topics of war and alleged violence, race, transgenderism, COVID-19 and abortion, which are highlighted in MRC’s CensorTrack database.
READERS OF WAR AND ALLEGEDLY VIOLENT CONTENT TARGETED HEAVILY
Secondhand censorship hit allegedly violent and war-related content more than any other topic area during the first three months of 2022. MRC counted 19 total cases of censorship of allegedly violent and war-related content, resulting in users being affected by secondhand censorship 26,366,632 times during the first quarter.
YouTube used content filters to chide Fox News subscribers, suggesting that the video “may be inappropriate,” and that the YouTube “community” had identified the video as “inappropriate or offensive.”
Secondhand censorship translated to Fox News’s 9,180,000 YouTube subscribers being prohibited from viewing potentially pivotal news about a possible path toward peace in the Ukraine War. The incident contributed to thwarting a consensus on a viable path out of the war from forming.
Independent hip-hop artist and video producer An0maly said Instagram and TikTok each censored him once during the first quarter of this year. He also said that Big Tech cracked down on news videos he posted about the Ukraine War.
“I just had my @Instagram (@InstagramComms) account demonetized for accurately reporting [on] the Russia/Ukraine conflict,” he tweeted March 13. An0maly questioned whether Instagram and TikTok worked together to censor him, because they acted at the same time.
An0maly had 421,000 Instagram followers and 130,200 TikTok followers at the time of the platforms’ censorship of him in mid-March. Put together, secondhand censorship affected An0maly’s followers 551,200 times combined across the rapper’s two accounts.
Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA) suggested the platform lock Starnes’s account. The lock followed Swalwell’s suggestion and a Starnes tweet calling out President Joe Biden’s reportedly poor vetting of Afghan refugees when they immigrated to the U.S. following the Biden administration’s botched military withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to a screenshot sent to MRC Free Speech America.
RACE-RELATED CONTENT TARGETED FOR SECONDHAND CENSORSHIP
In the race category, woke Big Tech censorship took many forms. Actions ranged from Spotify retroactively removing some of comedian Joe Rogan’s podcasts to Facebook blocking monetization of a Babylon Bee music video parodying the Black Lives Matter (BLM) riots to Twitter suspending Free Speech Alliance (FSA) member Chalkboard Review, which opposes Marxist critical race theory (CRT).
MRC counted 12 instances of Big Tech’s direct censorship of race-related content in the first quarter. Secondhand censorship affected the followers of these accounts 13,433,845 times across multiple platforms.
Most race-related secondhand censorship during the first quarter came when Spotify removed approximately 70 episodes of Rogan’s podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” in February. When the streaming platform removed those episodes, the effects of secondhand censorship cascaded across Rogan’s reported 11 million per-episode Spotify listeners.
Rogan’s past use of the N-word over the roughly 10-year course of his podcast reportedly ignited a furor across Spotify’s workforce. The comments even reportedly prodded Spotify CEO Daniel Ek into writing a memo to employees saying that the “hurtful” comments “do not represent the values of this company,” according to Axios.
Just after a video collage of Rogan’s use of the N-word came out, MRC found that leftist PatriotTakes, the group behind the video’s release, partnered with leftist SuperPAC MeidasTouch. MeidasTouch was partly funded by actress Bette Midler, who has a history of unhinged political behavior. She demonstrated this in a May 24 tweet that read, in part: “DON'T SAVE FETUSES ONLY TO HAVE THEM DIE AT SCHOOL BECAUSE YOU LOVE YOUR GUNS MORE THAN LIFE! FOR SHAME!!” This wasn’t censored, of course.
But the secondhand censorship we counted for Rogan represents a small fraction of the total impact of Spotify’s actions. MRC counted only one case of censorship to represent the one fell swoop in which the podcaster’s approximately 70 episodes were removed from the platform in February. Had MRC counted a separate censorship case for each of the remaining 69 episodes that had been removed, the secondhand censorship effect total would have been 770 million.
In addition to Spotify censoring Rogan, Facebook targeted race-related content several times, including by constricting monetization of a music video by The Babylon Bee calling out the BLM riots of summer 2020.
The Babylon Bee posted a music video called "Seasons of Blood: 525,600 Minutes of BLM Riots," which parodied Seasons of Love (525,600 minutes) from the Broadway musical Rent.
The song called out the overblown media response to the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot and the utter lack of an equivalent response to the BLM riots the year before. The video claimed that BLM rioters killed 22 people and destroyed hundreds of black businesses, while Vice President Kamala Harris promoted a bail fund that ended up raising $35 million to bail criminals out of jail.
Twitter joined Facebook in censoring an MRC Free Speech Alliance member in February when it suspended The Chalkboard Review, which actively opposes CRT.
Chalkboard Review told MRC in an email that Twitter had "given no warning or reasons our account has violated guidelines." The group said that following its suspension, it "discovered that the [National Education Association (NEA)] teachers Union went to social media companies in January asking them to help 'crack down' on 'anti-CRT propaganda.'"
Twitter unsuspended Chalkboard Review's account Feb. 4 after Twitter determined it wasn't "in violation of the Twitter rules," according to a snapshot. However, Chalkboard Review noted that it had lost all its followers.
"Our account has just been unsuspended by Twitter,” the account tweeted Feb. 4. “They cite that our account 'does not appear to be in violation of the Twitter Rules'. We've lost all of our followers, and are immediately beginning the verification process so this doesn't happen again."
BIG TECH TARGETED CONTENT CRITICAL OF LEFT'S TRANSGENDER AGENDA
Published CensorTrack entries show Big Tech directly suppressed content critical of the left’s transgender narrative 22 times. Those cases of direct censorship translated to a total of 11,964,958 times that users on social media had information kept from them.
The most notable instance of secondhand censorship of content critical of the left’s transgender narrative happened when Twitter deleted a post, impacting the 4,990,000 followers of Fox News host Tucker Carlson.
Carlson tweeted apparent screenshots of Twitter’s restriction notices sent to FSA member The Babylon Bee and conservative commentator Charlie Kirk, who is also a board advisor for MRC Free Speech America and CensorTrack.
Twitter restricted the accounts of The Babylon Bee and Kirk for calling transgender U.S. Assistant Health Secretary Rachel Levine a man.
The Babylon Bee and Kirk’s followers were affected by secondhand censorship 1,300,000 and 1,700,000 times, respectively, merely as a result of this one incident.
As for Carlson, he tweeted that both The Babylon Bee’s and Kirk’s tweets about Levine’s gender “are true.” Twitter claimed this post violated its rules, according to Archive.org records for Carlson’s Twitter page on March 22, and all of Carlson’s 4,990,000 followers weren’t allowed to see his post.
Other notable times secondhand censorship affected users stemming from content critical of the left’s transgender narrative on social media in the first quarter included:
- Twitter suspended The Daily Wire commentator Matt Walsh in January: Twitter suspended Walsh for tweeting that the greatest female Jeopardy champion, top female college swimmer and first female four-star admiral in the U.S. Public Health Service are men (secondhand censorship affected users 771,300 times). In the post, Walsh also noted: “The patriarchy wins in the end.”
- YouTube removed a sermon by evangelical pastor John MacArthur in January on the basis of so-called “hate speech”: The censorship happened after the pastor preached on biblical sexuality to protest a Canadian law that some worried would ban the teaching of biblical ethics. YouTube’s removal of the sermon meant that secondhand censorship affected MacArthur’s followers 603,000 times. "There is no such thing as transgender,” MacArthur preached. “You are either XX or XY, that's it. God made man male and female. That is determined genetically, that is physiology, that is science, that is reality."
- Twitter censored Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton three times in March: The censorship happened over the course of two days – March 17-18. Paxton initially called Levine a man, then called Emma Weyant “the real champion of the Division 1 NCAA women’s 500-yard freestyle” after she lost the first place spot to transgender swimmer Lia Thomas. After these two restrictions, Twitter callously censored a press release from Paxton’s office criticizing Big Tech censorship. These three instances of Twitter silencing Paxton translated to 532,800 times that users on social media had information kept from them.
BIG TECH THOUGHT POLICE SILENCED THOSE THAT QUESTIONED THE LEFT'S COVID-19 NARRATIVE
Big Tech censorship of alternate viewpoints on COVID-19 and vaccinations raged ahead during the first quarter of 2022, even as cases declined and local governments loosened masking and vaccination mandates.
Tech platforms sought total control over information related to COVID-19’s origins, the usefulness of cloth masks in preventing the virus’s spread, efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines and local government policies on supposed COVID-19 prevention. This Big Tech totalitarianism meant that social media users weren’t permitted to critically analyze pandemic-related information on a factual basis.
Twitter even censored a news report covering a peer-reviewed study about vaccine materials transforming into human DNA!
Just the News published a story March 3 reporting on a Swedish study that found the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can convert to DNA inside human liver cells.
But readers of Just the News were blocked from learning about the study.
All 867,000 of Just the News founder John Solomon’s Twitter followers weren’t allowed to read a March 3 news story covering the Swedish study. Such censorship potentially jeopardized the ability of readers to seek appropriate medical care for COVID-19. The censored story’s subheadline also noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed “the vaccine” could not turn into DNA.
Big Tech’s prejudicial secondhand censorship surged across 193,000 subscribers to the Clay Travis & Buck Sexton Show when YouTube refused to post the political commentators’ interview of Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). Paul challenged the left’s narrative, saying there was no logical reason for vaccine mandates to continue, given Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla’s statement that the first two doses ineffectively protected against the Omicron variant of COVID-19.
“We have to stand up for ourselves,” Paul said.
Big Tech censors also targeted grassroots protestors of COVID-19 mandates.
Apparently taking cues from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who mercilessly cracked down on truckers protesting COVID-19 mandates in his country, Facebook deactivated a grassroots group formed to protest U.S. COVID-19 mandates, which is logged in a February 1 CensorTrack post. The group planned to unite truckers from across the U.S. to protest pandemic-related requirements.
Though the effort appeared designed to stop the convoy from picking up enough steam to cram the streets of D.C., Facebook absurdly claimed it shut down the group for “repeatedly” violating “policies around QAnon,” Reclaim The Net reported.
Put together, secondhand censorship whacked 137,000 Facebook followers of the “Convoy to DC,” cramping plans for an organized protest.
TECH GIANTS TARGETED POSTS SUPPORTING LIFE, DENOUNCING ABORTION
Big Tech took a decidedly pro-choice stance in the first quarter.
Twitter and Instagram were among the platforms that stifled the spread of messages to prevent the slaughter of unborn children.
Big Tech’s censorship of posts critical of abortion resulted in 86,469 times that users on social media had information kept from them in the first quarter, according to data logged in MRC’s CensorTrack database.
"Just a reminder: Homosexual activity is a sin,” the head of the Catholic magazine tweeted. “Transgenderism is a mental illness. Abortion is murder."
Twitter locked Sammons’s account for a few days, claiming “hateful conduct,” until Sammons deleted the tweet.
Twitter’s censorship of Sammons resulted in his followers being affected by secondhand censorship 16,600 times with this one act of censorship.
Instagram’s censorship of pro-life posts hit close to home in January, as the platform didn't allow the 2,490 followers of MRC staff writer, researcher and video creator Tierin-Rose Mandelburg to see her January posts from the National March for Life.
"63 million murders for convenience is 63 million too many,” Mandelburg captioned her post. “Let's make this the last year we gotta march for ALL life! Roe gotta go!"
Instagram removed the post because it supposedly violated its “Community Guidelines,” it said, adding some people “may be sensitive” to “different things.”
The platform restored the post within an hour of requesting a review.
SECONDHAND CENSORSHIP FACTS BY SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM
CensorTrack flagged Meta (formerly Facebook) as having inflicted massive amounts of secondhand censorship in the first quarter of 2022 — more than any other platform.
The platform’s censorship resulted in users experiencing secondhand censorship 86,627,526 times in the first quarter, according to data logged in the MRC CensorTrack database.
Facebook has been under enormous pressure by leftist groups to censor conservative content.
A 1,000-company leftist coalition called “Stop Hate for Profit” boycotted Facebook ads in June 2020 to push the platform to suppress then-President Trump’s posts in the leadup to the 2020 election. Pressure from the group drove Facebook to create a policy removing certain Trump posts subjectively deemed to be violent or as intimidating voters.
Eventually, Facebook canceled Trump’s account.
Meta (then Facebook) announced partnerships with “third-party fact-checkers” just after the COVID-19 pandemic started in March 2020. Facebook’s fact-checking network members are part of the leftist Poynter-headed International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN).
Fact-checking is one of Facebook’s main methods of censoring views that counter the left’s narrative about political and social issues.
And that can at least be partly explained by the fact that billionaire leftist financier George Soros has donated lofty sums to that “fact-checking network,” which protects the liberal narrative.
Open Society Foundations records show that leftist billionaire George Soros contributed at least $467,000 to support Poynter’s IFCN between 2017 and 2019.
In the weeks leading up to the 2020 election, liberally biased IFCN member and Facebook fact-checker Lead Stories released 18 “fact-checks” defending President Joe Biden and his son Hunter, even as the widely respected New York Post reported on the alleged corrupt dealings of the Biden family in Ukraine 2 1/2 weeks before the election.
Facebook’s actions, partnerships and funding streams all indicate a massive effort to marginalize conservative and alternative views, restrict allowable debate and manipulate information flow.
A sizable proportion – 44.2 percent – of IFCN members reported Facebook’s fact-checking program was their highest source of revenue last year, according to IFCN’s State of the Fact-Checkers 2021 report.
Google-owned YouTube was the second-biggest culprit of secondhand censorship in the first three months of this year.
Across all topic areas, including content that questioned the left’s narrative on COVID-19, YouTube’s censorship resulted in users being affected by secondhand censorship 23,543,230 times in the first quarter, according to MRC CensorTrack data.
Like Facebook, YouTube has been under intense pressure from the left to censor alternative viewpoints harshly.
For instance, while IFCN is an official Facebook partner, in January Poynter’s “fact-checking” network also called for YouTube to take harsher censorship measures against COVID-19 content that questioned the left’s narrative.
The platform obliged.
MRC counted 14 first-quarter instances in which YouTube directly censored content questioning the left’s narrative on COVID-19 and content critical of COVID-19 vaccinations. Those actions resulted in secondhand censorship affecting users 2,787,337 times for COVID-19 content on the platform from January to March. This meant that broad swaths of YouTube users weren’t given critical facts to help them make important decisions about their health care.
Conservative talk show host and 2022 MRC Bulldog Award winner for Outstanding Podcast Dan Bongino’s censorship alone resulted in secondhand censorship affecting users 1,764,989 times in the first quarter. That number was the sum total resulting from YouTube directly suppressing Bongino’s posts on the efficacy of masks and COVID-19 twice in January, according to CensorTrack data.
YouTube took aim at Bongino and his nearly 900,000 subscribers after he claimed masks were “useless” in preventing the spread of COVID-19 on his podcast, The Dan Bongino Show.
YouTube suspended Bongino’s secondary page, and a company spokesperson reportedly told Forbes that the commentator “repeatedly” violated so-called “Advertiser-Friendly Guidelines on harmful and dangerous acts."
Bongino later tried to upload a video to his main channel while his secondary channel remained suspended.
YouTube permanently banned Bongino’s main channel for trying “to circumvent the suspension,” a platform spokesperson told MRC Free Speech America.
“When a channel receives a strike, it is against our Terms of Service to post content or use another channel to circumvent the suspension,” the spokesperson said. “If a channel is terminated, the uploader is unable to use, own or create any other YouTube channels.”
Like every other platform described in this piece, Twitter has double standards for what it deems violative content. And these double standards helped Twitter notch the third highest count of secondhand censorship in the first quarter compared to other social media platforms.
During the first quarter, Twitter engaged in flagrant bias on both domestic and international political issues, even allowing seven dictators to freely post on the platform, as MRC Free Speech America reported in March. The platform’s censorship resulted in users being affected by secondhand censorship 17,065,054 times in the first quarter.
Russian government officials used Twitter, unimpeded, to spread pro-Kremlin propaganda and convince users to support Russia during its ongoing invasion of Ukraine. GOP House lawmakers pointed out this circumstance to platform CEO Parag Agrawal in an April letter, noting the inconsistency of the platform’s lax approach toward Russia in light of its permanent ban on Trump.
Twitter not only encourages the spread of tyrannical ideas across its user base, but the company also removed a post showing an example of a death threat Post Millennial Editor-at-Large Andy Ngo said he received.
Twitter prevented Ngo’s followers from seeing a distress call he sounded after he said he received an emailed death threat in February. This one action alone resulted in Ngo’s followers being affected by secondhand censorship 976,300 times.
"Andy, I'm hopeful that someone puts a bullet in your head,” the email read. “That would be hilarious!!!! Die motherf**er..... die.”
Twitter claimed it removed the tweet for violating the platform’s rules against posting private information, even though Ngo said he was the victim – not the aggressor. The Post Millennial tweeted that an “obviously fake email address” was “attached to” the death threat email.
Twitter’s secondhand censorship took another big splash when the platform censored Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) for sharing an adverse event comparison of various COVID-19 treatments.
This direct action resulted in secondhand censorship affecting users 290,300 times, as Johnson’s Twitter followers weren’t permitted to read valuable information about potential alternative COVID-19 treatments.
Johnson tweeted: "Sadly, we passed two milestones on VAERS [Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System]. Over 1 million adverse events and over 21,000 deaths. 30% of those deaths occurred on day 0, 1, or 2 following vaccination. When will federal agencies start being transparent with Americans? Why do they continue to ignore early treatment?"
Along with his tweet he included a graphic that compared the number of recorded adverse events, deaths and average deaths per year for Ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, the flu vaccines, dexamethasone, Tylenol, Remdesivir and the COVID-19 vaccines.
Twitter placed a warning label over the tweet calling it "Misleading," and encouraged users to "Learn why health officials consider COVID-19 vaccines safe for most people."
The platform also restricted users from commenting on, liking, retweeting or sharing the tweet.
Big Tech censorship’s added impacts, otherwise known as secondhand censorship, affect social media users around the world. The practice prevents social media users from learning new information and considering viewpoints that run counter to the leftist narrative on current issues.
Secondhand censorship stunts political conversation, contributed to global division and chaos and eased the ability of the liberal establishment to accelerate its agenda on a wide bevy of topics. Those topics include – but are by no means limited to – transgenderism, COVID-19, abortion, race and war.
National policymakers and the American public must act now to end Big Tech companies’ authoritarian practices against those who confront the status quo.
The world’s people deserve it. A thriving American republic necessitates it. Liberty demands it.
Heather Moon contributed to this report.