Democrats clashed with conservative YouTube personalities Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson — better known as "Diamond and Silk" — over alleged social media bias against them during a congressional hearing on Thursday.
“[Republicans] have prioritized this spectacle over every other kind of conversation we should be having today and we should have been having for the past year,” Nadler said.
The New York lawmaker said claims the YouTube personalities had been censored or discriminated against by the social media platforms didn’t stand up to any scrutiny, nor did broader claims of conservative bias.
“Diamond and Silk's tremendous reach and growth is evidence that they haven’t been censored,” he said.
During their questioning, the duo fired back, charging Democrats with being biased themselves.
“If the shoe was on the other foot and Mark ZuckerbergMark ZuckerbergEx-Facebook data scientist to testify before British lawmakers A defense for Facebook and global free speech Senate Democrat calls on Facebook to preserve documents related to whistleblower testimony MORE was a conservative and we were liberals, all fences and chains would have broke loose,” Hardaway said.
Lawmakers also questioned Hardaway and Richardson about inconsistencies during their testimony.
For example, the two said they were never paid by the Trump campaign, but backtracked when Rep. Hakeem JeffriesHakeem Sekou JeffriesSinema in Arizona as Democrats try to get spending-infrastructure deal LIVE COVERAGE: Biden tries to unify divided House Democrats search for sweet spot below .5 trillion price tag MORE (D-N.Y.) cited a Federal Elections Commission (FEC) filing indicating that they had been.
“The FEC report, dated May 12, 2017, states that on Nov. 22, 2016, the campaign of Donald J. Trump for President Inc. paid Diamond and Silk $1,274.94 for ‘field consulting.’ Are you familiar with that?” he asked.
“We are familiar with that particular lie. Because yeah, we do look at fake news,” Richardson responded.
Hardaway and Richardson claimed that it may have been a mistake by the Trump campaign, saying that the money was reimbursement for travel during a Trump campaign tour, not for field consulting.
Hardaway and Richardson repeatedly claimed that they had been censored by Facebook, relaying their accounts of what they claimed were otherwise-unexplained declines in their viewership numbers and anecdotes from fans who said their videos have become harder to find.
Richardson also answered “yes" when asked if Diamond and Silk were "blocked" on Facebook, despite being unable to produce any record of this.
Lawmakers and experts in the hearing said that this actually was likely the result of a Facebook algorithm change across the platform that de-prioritized content that doesn't come from a user's friends and family, rather than a change aimed specifically at Diamond and Silk or other conservatives.
Facebook did not provide a comment on the hearing but a spokesperson directed The Hill to a portion of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s congressional testimony earlier in April. Zuckerberg had said that his company is “very committed to making sure that Facebook is a platform for all ideas.”
The dispute between Facebook and Diamond and Silk started in September, when the company updated its policies for allowing users to monetize content on the platform.
A Facebook employee later acknowledged that the company did not properly communicate those new rules to Diamond and Silk.
On April 9, Facebook emailed the two to apologize and try to clarify the matter. Facebook also later publicly reached out to them on their own platform and Twitter.
Days later, Diamond and Silk accused Facebook of censoring the reach of their posts.
The company responded by saying that changing their settings could fix those problems.
--Updated at 2:26 p.m.