Twitter’s suppression of pro-life speech must stop

Twitter was back in the news last week for yet again suppressing political speech. This time, the social media giant blocked a campaign advertisement of U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-Tenn.) announcement for the U.S. Senate because of a single pro-life sentence it contained.

Rep. Blackburn led the House Select Investigative Panel in a nearly year-long investigation into Planned Parenthood’s baby parts trafficking scandal, which found enough evidence to make several criminal referrals to the Justice Department and state attorneys general.

{mosads}Yet, Twitter said that the claim in her campaign ad that she “stopped the sale of baby body parts” was “deemed an inflammatory statement that is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction,” and it banned her from advertising the video on its platform. Twitter said the campaign could only run the ad if the statement about America’s largest abortion chain, Planned Parenthood, was removed.


Within days, Twitter reversed its decision after receiving widespread media attention and criticism, including from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg who said, “When you cut off speech for one person, you cut off speech for all.”

But Twitter’s suppression of pro-life viewpoints didn’t start with Rep. Blackburn, and it doesn’t end there.

Twitter has been blocking pro-life groups like Live Action and Susan B. Anthony List from promoting much of their pro-life content for years, calling it “offensive” and “inflammatory” — even claiming it violates Twitter’s prohibition of “hateful” content. Despite Twitter’s reversal on Rep. Blackburn’s ad, Twitter continues to block all advertising from Live Action, as well as some advertising from SBA List.

So, what does Twitter find so offensive and inflammatory? Tweeting a picture of a child developing in the womb and expressing an acknowledgment of the right to life. Or tweeting ultrasound images, like the ones that most expectant parents hang on their refrigerator doors. By blocking Live Action, Twitter doesn’t just suppress pro-life political speech: it suppresses crucial education about human dignity and images revealing the development of children in the womb.

Yet Planned Parenthood is free to tweet without restriction and heavily advertise its pro-abortion agenda. The corporation commits over 320,000 abortions every year, and lobbies for abortion with no restrictions — up through the ninth month of pregnancy. While some may argue for Twitter to fiercely protect the advertising of such a violent group, it is hard to find anyone praising Twitter’s suppression of Planned Parenthood’s critics.

Twitter says it’s okay for Planned Parenthood to tweet that a woman has a right to an abortion, but when Live Action tweets that a baby has a right to life, Twitter considers that “inflammatory” or “hateful.”

Twitter says it’s acceptable for Planned Parenthood to tweet that taxpayers who don’t want their hard-earned dollars funding the abortion chain are extremists (even though the majority of Americans, when polled, don’t want taxpayer funding of abortion providers), but when Live Action wants to counter that argument and tweet that Planned Parenthood shouldn’t receive taxpayer funding, Twitter calls that “offensive.” In fact, Twitter even told Live Action that we must delete a petition to defund Planned Parenthood in order to resume advertising.

As SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said, “If Planned Parenthood — the nation’s largest abortion business, mired in scandal — is free to promote its agenda on this social media platform, pro-lifers should be equally free to expose the tremendous harm of that agenda to unborn children and their mothers.”

Twitter has also blocked SBA List ads like one that simply included a profound pro-life quote by Mother Teresa, and ads calling on constituents to urge their members of Congress to vote for a pro-life health care reform bill.

Twitter was wrong to suppress Rep. Blackburn’s ad and only did the right thing when it was subjected to media scrutiny. But Twitter didn’t change its position that Rep. Blackburn’s pro-life language was potentially inflammatory, saying only that “after reconsidering the ad in the context of the entire message, we believe that there is room to refine our policies around these issues

Keep in mind that despite attempts by Twitter, the National Abortion Federation and Planned Parenthood to suppress the tapes showing Planned Parenthood executives haggling over baby body parts prices, that case is far from closed. Along with Representative Rep. Blackburn’s House Select Investigative Panel, the Senate Judiciary Committee has also referred Planned Parenthood to both the FBI and the Justice Department for investigation and possible criminal prosecution.

Even if Twitter doesn’t agree with Rep. Blackburn’s or Live Action’s or SBA List’s position on life, Twitter must now lift the ban on advertising from pro-life groups, ending its suppression of pro-life speech. Twitter’s founders have often claimed that it’s a neutral platform for speech of opposing viewpoints. Now they need to prove that claim is more than just empty rhetoric by giving pro-life groups the same opportunity to spread their message that abortion vendors like Planned Parenthood and NARAL receive.

Finally, Twitter’s behavior should cause concern for everyone, even beyond those of us involved in the fight to protect preborn children and their mothers. Twitter is a platform with more than 300 million users, and the issues it chooses to take sides on can have a tremendous impact on our politics, our national conversations, and even our laws and elections.

To date, after numerous inquiries to Twitter, Live Action’s lawyers have no received no concrete, objective standards for rejecting our ads or about reinstating our account. Twitter will only say that judgments are made on a case-by-case basis – which means there’s no standard at all. Until it clearly defines its standards for rejecting or allowing ads and publishes them, pro-life groups, other human rights advocates, and politicians will be subject to the whims of Twitter management.

Even in today’s internet age, with so much noise competing for our attention, word can take time to spread. Live Action recently launched a petition to call for Twitter’s reinstatement of ads, and recently began its publicizing of Twitter’s actions. More work must be done to alarm Twitter users and the public to Twitter’s secretive suppression of the pro-life viewpoint. But as more people are made aware, concern will grow. A company that insists on violating its own mission statement and suppressing the viewpoint of many of its users will struggle to thrive and may eventually fail. The question is, will Twitter reverse course before it’s too late?

Lila Rose is the President and Founder of Live Action. You can find her on Twitter: @lilagracerose

Tags anti-abortion Marsha Blackburn pro-life Twitter

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