- The Washington Times
Thursday, August 25, 2022

Facebook officials say they made a mistake this week when they blocked House Judiciary Committee Republicans from posting a criticism of the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness plan.

Not everyone is buying Big Tech’s excuses, and Republicans see it as another example of unfair political censorship online.

“It’s always a ‘glitch’ when it comes to Republicans and Big Tech,” Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, told The Washington Times. “No one’s buying it.” 

Republicans have grown wary of Facebook, Twitter and other social media platforms that flag or remove content posted by conservatives, and Wednesday’s move by Facebook deepened their mistrust.

The social media giant censored a post by House Judiciary Republicans that took a swipe at President Biden’s program to cancel up to $20,000 in student loan debt. 

“If you take out a loan, you pay it back. Period,” committee Republicans posted on Facebook. 

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Soon afterward, Facebook flagged the post and blocked others from viewing it. Facebook explained that the post violated the platform’s “community standards.” 

“Big Tech’s at it again,” Judiciary Committee Republicans posted on Twitter.

Facebook quickly reversed course. 

In a Thursday statement, Facebook spokesman Andy Stone said the post doesn’t violate company policies and “people should not have been prevented from sharing it.” He promised Facebook would “fix it.”

Republicans and technology experts doubt the move to block the post was a simple mistake.

Although Facebook and other social media platforms employ algorithms to help monitor posts, removing them requires human approval, often from higher up the management chain, said Will Thibeau, a tech policy analyst for the conservative Heritage Foundation.

“A human is involved at every stage in the content process for a company like Facebook,” Mr. Thibeau said. “And even if an algorithm perhaps cued up this House Judiciary GOP post for a decision, a human, a Facebook employee, made the decision to remove the post. And likely there was a manager, and perhaps another, who approved that decision.”

Mr. Stone’s statement did not explain how the post was errantly removed, but Mr. Thibeau said it fits a pattern. 

“Even if this was a mistake, it’s an indication that there are people on Facebook who don’t want conservatives to get their message out on such an important platform,” he said. 

Republicans have been battling Big Tech censorship for years. Before the 2020 presidential election, Twitter and Facebook removed media stories about the discovery of an incriminating laptop computer belonging to Hunter Biden, the president’s son. 

Republicans over the past few years introduced many bills aimed at tackling online censorship through transparency provisions and removing liability protections from social media companies that control or edit content.  

They introduced legislation this summer to expand transparency and discourage social media platforms from using biased algorithms to filter email into spam folders. 

They also introduced a bill that would require Big Tech to disclose “any U.S. or foreign government requests or recommendations regarding content moderation.” That legislation was introduced in the Senate last year after press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that the White House was “flagging problematic posts” for social media companies. 

There’s no evidence the Biden administration alerted Facebook to the Judiciary Committee Republicans’ post flagged this week, and Facebook officials did not respond to a request for further information about why the post was taken down.

Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican who is a chief co-sponsor of the disclosure bill, said he thinks the administration was involved.

Mr. Johnson has battled Big Tech censorship of his social media content, including posts during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic about vaccine side effects and early COVID-19 drug treatments that were not endorsed by the Biden administration

“This is yet another example of how Big Tech is working in coordination with the Biden administration to suppress information they don’t like,” Mr. Johnson told The Times. “Big Tech platforms have been using the label of ‘misinformation’ in order to slander and censor any voices that are critical of the Biden administration.”

• Susan Ferrechio can be reached at sferrechio@washingtontimes.com.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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