Lawmaker credits Facebook for removing page inciting violence against Republicans
Facebook on Tuesday removed a page for inciting violence against Republicans after Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) brought it up in a hearing.
Gaetz said his office previously brought the page to Facebook’s attention and the social media giant dismissed the concerns. But he presented the page to Facebook’s head of global policy management directly during the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing examining how social media companies filter content.
However, on Wednesday Facebook disputed that it removed the page, which is no longer online.
During the Tuesday hearing, the Florida Republican had highlighted content posted on a page titled “Milkshakes against the Republican Party” that called for “crazed shooters” to target the GOP’s congressional baseball team and attack the National Rifle Association.
Gaetz noted the social media platform previously said the page didn’t meet its criteria for removal when his office contacted them about the posts.
Facebook’s Head of Global Policy Management Monika Bickert acknowledged any calls for violence violate their terms of service. She vowed to address the content and, following the hearing, the page was removed.
“I am glad Facebook swiftly removed this offensive page; while I unconditionally support the First Amendment, inciting violence against others due to their political affiliation is not Constitutionally-protected speech,” Gaetz said in a statement. “While removing this page was a small step forward to making Facebook a safer place, bigger questions remain.”
Facebook spokeswoman Ruchika Budhraja said Wednesday that while the page is now down, Facebook is not responsible for its removal, adding they reached out to Gaetz’s office about the matter.
Gaetz’s office asserted they have not heard from the social media giant since speaking with them about removing the page after the hearing.
“Our office spoke with Facebook’s team immediately after yesterday’s hearing. The Facebook page within question was promptly taken down,” a spokesperson for Gaetz said in a statement on Wednesday. “Since that time, our office has not been contacted by Facebook.”
Republicans argue that Facebook is biased against conservative content. Tuesday’s hearing was the second on the subject.
The Florida Republican went on to question whether Facebook is a content publisher or a neutral forum.
“This distinction is not merely academic, as they are governed by different laws and different rules. If Facebook claims to be a neutral forum, it cannot continue to limit conservative content; if Facebook claims to be a publisher, it will lose its legal ‘immunity’ under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act,” he continued.
“They simply cannot have it both ways. My colleagues and I on the Judiciary Committee look forward to exploring this important distinction in the future.”
-Updated July 18 at 2:48 p.m.