How gracious of them! Twitter initially blocked Marsha Blackburn’s campaign-launch video as a paid ad for using the phrase “baby body parts,” a reference to her investigation into Planned Parenthood’s income from fetal organ and tissue sales. A day after boosting Blackburn’s credibility while destroying their own, Twitter execs belatedly thought twice about becoming political editors for candidates on their platform:
The social media network said on Monday she couldn’t promote the video on Twitter unless she removed the phrase, but changed course Tuesday.
“Our ads policies strive to balance protecting our users from potentially distressing content while allowing our advertisers to communicate their messages. Nowhere is this more difficult than in the realm of political advertising and the highly charged issues that are often addressed therein. After further review, we have made the decision to allow the content in question from Rep. Blackburn’s campaign ad to be promoted on our ads platform,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“While we initially determined that a small portion of the video used potentially inflammatory language, after reconsidering the ad in the context of the entire message, we believe that there is room to refine our policies around these issues.”
Gee, ya think? Perhaps there are good reasons for social-media platforms to review political ads from outside groups after the exposure of Russia’s attempts at pot-stirring in US elections. There are no good reasons to act as a censor on official campaign releases from legitimate candidates, especially over something as picayune as the exact verbiage to describe fetal organ and tissue sales, which no one disputes is happening. (The dispute is on whether Planned Parenthood “profits” from it, and whether they illegally modify their abortion procedures to maximize their income from it.) On top of that, Blackburn ran a congressional probe into this issue, making it a key point in discussing her record.
Blackburn called this “our first Senate conservative victory” while discussing the late-night Twitter reversal with Fox and Friends this morning:
“The American people have just risen up, and I said this is our first senate conservative victory,” the Republican lawmaker told “Fox & Friends” Wednesday morning. “Because we stood firm and Twitter reconsidered, and they are going to allow us to put my campaign announcement back up to push it out on their platform, which is exactly what we’re going to do.”
While Blackburn complained that her anti-abortion stance had been unfairly censored by Twitter, the Republican lawmaker also utilized the incident to fundraise, telling potential donors that “Silicon Valley elites” had attempted to “impose their values.” Wednesday morning, she complained that “the liberal left cannot continue to think they have the right to sensor free speech.”
Actually, Twitter handed Blackburn her first “conservative victory” by blocking her ad in the first place. The social-media platform has taken a sharp turn leftward in its speech policing and silencing, a fact which has frustrated conservatives but largely flown under the radar. Their attempt to do this with Blackburn has put new attention on these practices, and is going to provide Twitter’s critics with objective evidence of biased and partisan enforcement on their platform.
Their retreat in the face of harsh criticism of those practices might suggest that Twitter realizes it has gone too far … or may just be cover to continue those practices on people with lower profiles than members of Congress. Don’t bet on the former.