Several prominent conservative leaders on Tuesday authored an open letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, calling on him to investigate “every aspect” of how Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets "interact with the public." They called for freedom, fairness, and an end to censorship on these platforms. The letter can be read below:
September 25, 2018
The Honorable Jeff Sessions
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Attorney General Sessions,
In anticipation of your meeting with the State Attorneys General today, I would like to bring to your attention some important details about online censorship for you to consider. Since January of this year, the Media Research Center (MRC) has conducted a thorough analysis of claims made by conservatives that they are being censored on social media.
The MRC is leading a coalition of more than 40 conservative organizations that are joining forces to bring more awareness to the political agenda which exists on social media that’s targeting conservatives. These organizations understand that this bias represents an existential threat against them and the entire conservative movement.
Never before in human history have companies been this large and influential. They have the power to control so much of what we read and say every moment of the day — on a global scale. That poses an unprecedented threat to the ideals of free speech that this nation was founded on.
While the MRC and Conservatives Against Online Censorship have been working with all of the top social media/search media firms, and wish to continue doing so, there have been several developments recently that demonstrate this hostility is truly profound. Legislators must understand the implications which are very troubling. Google was allegedly involved in trying to impact the 2016 election results, according to recent revelations.
These claims reached the highest levels of the company in attempting to increase the vote for Hillary Clinton – and came from an exclusive report broken by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson on his show, “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Carlson revealed a disturbing Google email chain sent out on November 9, 2016, by Google’s Multicultural Marketing department head, Eliana Murillo. In the four-page email, Murillo described how she and her coworkers worked to boost Latino voting turnout, but did so in a clear attempt to aid Clinton. It included her gratitude for the “shout out” she received from Google's CEO Pichai Sundar for her efforts.
That was followed by the release of a post-election video including staff and some of the top people at the company complaining about the election results and proclaiming their commitment to the struggle in opposition to said results.
It doesn’t stop with Google. Similarly disturbing instances of bias have also come out about Facebook and Twitter, including:
- Facebook: In September, allegations of bias against conservatives at Facebook came to light from many of Facebook’s own employees, like Brian Amerige, a senior engineer: “We Have a Problem with Political Diversity,” he wrote. “We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack—often in mobs—anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.” He added that “All the talk of ‘openness to different perspectives’ does not apply to causes of ‘social justice,’ immigration, ‘diversity’, and ‘equality.’ On [these] issues, you can either keep quiet or sacrifice your reputation and career.”
- Twitter: The Dawoodi Bohra Women for Religious Freedom posted a tweet on September 9 promoting khafz, the hideous act of female circumcision. This tweet was allowed by Twitter Ads to become a sponsored tweet, popping up in people’s feeds randomly. The group, a branch of the Shi’ite Muslim community, promotes female circumcision and claims that it has been “wrongly classified as female genital mutilation [FGM].” That’s not the way pro-life organizations are treated. The pro-life group Live Action has had its ads suppressed for years by Twitter, which has blocked its ads with information about Planned Parenthood and has labeled ultrasound images as “inflammatory or provocative.” But when it comes to a Muslim group promoting female genital mutilation, Twitter had no problem letting the ad through for a full five days before admitting its mistake.
- Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey: He also came under fire for his plans for modifying how users interact on the site to ensure a “healthy conversation.” Dorsey denied that there is any bias in the organization, but refuses to disclose how its algorithms are designed.
Our concerns about bias are not a new phenomenon. Our initial study, “CENSORED! How Online Media Companies Are Suppressing Conservative Speech,” published on April 16, 2018, revealed some disturbing facts. Some of our findings include:
- Twitter Leads in Censorship: Project Veritas recently caught Twitter staffers admitting on hidden camera that they had been censoring conservatives through a technique known as shadow banning, where users think their content is getting seen widely, but it’s not. Twitter also restricts pro-life ads from Live Action and even Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), but allows Planned Parenthood advertisements.
- Facebook’s Trending Feed Has Been Hiding Conservative Topics: A 2016 Gizmodo story had warned of Facebook’s bias. It had detailed claims by former employees that Facebook’s news curators had been instructed to hide conservative content from the “trending” section, which supposedly only features news users find compelling. Topics that had been blacklisted included Mitt Romney, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) and Rand Paul. On the other hand, the term “Black Lives Matter” had also been placed into the trending section even though it was not actually trending.
- Google Search Aids Democrats: Google and YouTube’s corporate chairman Eric Schmidt had assisted Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. The company’s search engine had deployed a similar bias in favor of Democrats. One study had found 2016 campaign searches were biased in favor of Hillary Clinton.
- YouTube Is Shutting Down Conservative Videos: Google’s YouTube site had created its own problems with conservative content. YouTube moderators must take their cues from the rest of Google – from shutting down entire conservative channels “by mistake” to removing videos that promote right-wing political views.
- Tech Firms Are Relying on Groups That Hate Conservatives: Top tech firms like Google, YouTube and Twitter partner with leftist groups attempting to censor conservatives. These include the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).
- Liberal Twitter Advisors Outnumber Conservatives 12-to-1: Twelve of the 25 U.S. members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council – which helps guide its policies – are liberal, and only one is conservative. Anti-conservative groups like GLAAD and the ADL are part of the board.
- Tech Companies Rely on Anti-Conservative Fact-Checkers: Facebook and Google both had partnered with fact-checking organizations in order to combat “fake news.” Facebook’s short-lived disputed flagger program had allowed Snopes, PolitiFact and ABC News to discern what is and is not real news. Google’s fact-checkers had accused conservative sources of making claims that did not appear in their articles and disproportionately “fact-checked” conservative sources. YouTube also had announced a partnership with Wikipedia in order to debunk videos deemed to be conspiracy theories, even though Wikipedia has been criticized for its liberal bias.
The bias of these organizations by itself is not the issue. It is the influence these organizations possess in addition to their bias which makes them so dangerous.
According to Statista:
- In the last reported quarter, “the number of monthly active U.S. Twitter users amounted to 68 million. With more than 336 million monthly active users worldwide as of the first quarter of 2018, Twitter is one of the biggest social networks worldwide. The number of U.S. Twitter users is projected to surpass 70 million in 2020.”
- In 2018, the number of Facebook users in the United States is expected to reach 207.36 million, up from 197.7 million in 2016. As of the second quarter of 2017, the social network was accessed by 2 billion users on a monthly basis, making it the most popular social network worldwide.
- Google generated 63.2 percent of all core search queries in the United States. In terms of the mobile search market in the United States, Google leads again with an over 93 percent market share.
The examples of bias included here are just a few of the many we have encountered. Americans are distrustful of these social media organizations because they have good reason to be. Their institutional bias against conservatives, along with their influence, is a dangerous combination.
It remains our position that we will work with social media/search media firms to ensure everyone receives fair treatment on their platforms. However, those negotiations are in their infancy and this is a situation that can’t be left to chance.
During such a critical political season, it is crucial that you and the State Attorneys General look into every aspect of how these social media/search media powerhouses interact with the public to determine possible violations of civil or statutory law.
L. Brent Bozell III
Founder and President
Media Research Center
Diana L. Banister
Shirley & Banister Public Affairs
Gary L. Bauer
David N. Bossie
National Organization for Marriage
Chairman and CEO
American Civil Rights Union
William A. Donohue, Ph.D.
Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights
Angel Pictures & Publicity Inc.
Economic War Room
Founder and Chairman
ACT for America
Council for National Policy
Vice President of Public Policy
Colorado Christian University
Former Member (OH-6)
U.S. House of Representatives
Executive Director and Founder
Free Our Internet
Honorable James C. Miller III
Budget Director for
President Reagan (1985-1988)
Louisiana Family Forum
C. Preston Noell III
Tradition, Family, Property, Inc.
James Nolan, Esq.
American Principles Project
Mathew D. Staver, Esq., B.C.S.*
Founder and Chairman
William L. Walton
LTC Allen B. West (USA, Ret)
Member, 112th US Congress
Senior Fellow, Media Research Center
Co-founder and Editor-in-Chief
American Family Association