The talking points have apparently gone out, and it is now OK for the mainstream press to gently criticize the Black Lives Matter movement. Accordingly, New York magazine has issued a critique of BLM’s financial management — particularly, the organization’s purchase in 2020 of a $6 million, 6,500 square foot house in Southern California.
Almost exactly a year ago, the New York Post reported on the purchase of four other multi-million dollar high-end homes by BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors. The story described the homes no differently than it would any other celebrity home purchase. All the information contained in the article was gleaned from public records, including the photos. No addresses were listed.
But within days, users on Facebook were banned from sharing the story — on the platform itself, on Facebook messenger, and on Instagram, which Facebook owns. Despite the fact that all the information discussed was a matter of public record, Facebook flagged the article for violating their community standards, specifically the “privacy and personal information policy.”
A year later, Facebook (now Meta) still classifies the story as “abusive” and prevents it from being shared on its platforms.
Now we know why.
Buried in New York magazine’s reporting is this little nugget: “Other conversations on the BLM Security Hub chat show efforts to monitor social media for negative mentions of [the Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation], with members using their influence with the platforms to have such remarks removed.”
In other words, BLM appears to have lobbied Facebook to have the New York Post story blocked from circulation for no other reason than it could be used to criticize them. And, because BLM is politically powerful, politically favored, and revered by America’s elite, Facebook agreed. And not only that, but Facebook, in continuing to ban circulation of the story, is still running cover for a BLM movement, even as it faces legal and tax inquiries.
Like most of Big Tech’s censorship decisions, it is self-evident that Facebook’s reasoning in banning circulation of the Post’s story is absurd. The platform did not, for example, ban the circulation of stories which quoted amply from secret recordings made of Melania Trump — actual privacy violations. Nor do they censor news stories containing leaked details of personal tax filings.
But consistency isn’t the point. Leading Democrats have proven time and again that they know Big Tech is a willing partner in their partisan efforts to silence criticism and dissent. Twitter’s new “Safety Mode” is already auto-blocking criticism of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez frequently complains to Twitter when hashtags critical of her begin to trend — and calls it “misinformation” when her own tweets come back to bite her.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama revealed a similar strategy when, fed up with former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric, she didn’t write an op-ed or attempt to persuade voters — she called on Big Tech to ban him, permanently.
In 2019, the Wall Street Journal reported that Naral Pro-Choice America complained to Google that the company’s search results were turning up too many websites for crisis pregnancy centers — organizations which support and counsel women toward keeping their pregnancies. In response, Google updated its advertising policies related to abortion.
Facebook, like other Big Tech platforms, willingly abets the “criticism as abuse” narrative from public figures and organizations who, by virtue of their prominence, face public critique. This allows left-wing actors to weaponize the biggest speech platforms in the world in their favor. In the case of BLM, Facebook played a direct role in shielding the organization from the accountability that may have arrived sooner had criticism been allowed to be shared and circulated.
The ability of the Big Tech platforms to distort the national conversation around progressive figures and causes flows directly from their scale. The unprecedented accumulation of power over speech and narrative control threatens not only access to the public square, but the integrity of it.
The concentration of market power in the Big Tech platforms allows them to raise the cost of expression in ways that are antithetical to democracy itself. And the costs can clearly be seen in how we consume information, but also how we use these platforms to speak at all.
The message is not just one of censorship from the platforms, but a clear directive for individuals to self-censor: Dare to critique the favored and powerful, and you, too, will be silenced.
Rachel Bovard is senior director of policy at the Conservative Partnership Institute.