Pro-Life leaders tell White House summit of online censorship

Washington D.C., Jul 12, 2019 / 05:00 pm (CNA).- Pro-life leaders were invited to a White House social media summit Thursday, amid claims of online censorship by search engines and social media sites.  

“We are the tip of the spear as far as social media persecution goes,” Cary Solomon, co-writer, director and producer of the pro-life film “Unplanned” told CNA on Friday. “We are an example of a business that was directly, monetarily hurt” by online censorship.

President Trump has previously met with the heads of tech and social media corporations, but “Unplanned” co-director Chuck Konzelman said, yet “what struck a chord” at the July 11 summit “was that idea that I think he’s finally recognized this is all in bad faith.”

Several pro-life leaders were among the 200 digital and social media experts invited to the White House summit. Among those also invited were several members of Congress including House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), and Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas).

Lila Rose, founder and president of the pro-life group Live Action, addressed President Trump and the summit briefly on Thursday, sharing how Live Action has had to deal with obstacles to online advertising.

Live Action has been prevented from advertising on Twitter for four years, Rose said, having been told by the social media giant that the group would need to stop calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and sharing its pro-life content.

Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider still advertises on the site, she noted. Meanwhile, the site YouTube “buried our pro-life videos and boosted abortion videos,” Rose said.

Live Action says it was also permanently suspended from Pinterest in June, over allegations of promoting “conspiracy theories,” despite abortion clinics and pro-abortion groups posting freely.

Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for the Susan B. Anthony List, was also present at Thursday’s summit. She said that Pinterest has left up posts on its site explaining how to do at-home abortions. “That threatens the health and safety of women,” she said.

Informing voters of pro-life issues ahead of the 2018 elections was “critical” to the mission of Susan B. Anthony List, Quigley said. But their videos—including TV ads featuring children born prematurely at 20 weeks to illustrate that babies are viable by that age—faced censorship online.

Facebook took down one such campaign ad in Tennessee, but reinstated it with an apology. But a similar ad in Montana disappeared just hours later, Quigley said, a process of “starting and stopping” online ads for seemingly “arbitrary reasons.”

“And that really impedes our ability to reach voters,” she said.

Search engines like Google and social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube “have set themselves up as a platform where all voices are supposed to be welcomed,” Quigley said, yet “there’s been just demonstrable bias against pro-life organizations,” she said, “and we haven’t heard of the same thing happening on the other side of this debate.”

On its opening weekend—critical to any film, but especially to a smaller-budget film — “Unplanned” had its Twitter page taken down and lost the vast majority of its followers, Konzelman said. Pro-Life activist Abby Johnson, who’s conversion from a Planned Parenthood clinic manager is the premise of the film, could not access her own Twitter account during the same period.

In addition, in its Google searches for movie times, the film was labeled “Drama/Propaganda,” he said, “and ‘propaganda’ is not something an algorithm would assign. That’s the work of a human being.”

In addition, Konzelman said YouTube pulled their behind-the-scenes documentary off the website, posted to promote interest in the film, citing several pieces of copyrighted music in the video, even though “Unplanned” had rights to the music. At the same time, the site allowed a serious copyright infringement to take place as the entire copy of the movie stayed on the site and was not taken down after it was released in theaters.

All four attendees were grateful that the White House was giving the subject attention.

“This double-standard and bias is a growing problem in big tech, even though they say that they are politically neutral and that they don’t discriminate,” Rose said on Thursday at the summit. “So thank you so much to the administration and to you, Mr. President, for holding this very important summit.”

Quigley said Trump’s invitation had “put the spotlight on such an important pro-life leader, and an issue that they have faced in a very particular way, and that the entire movement is facing.” 

“It is very moving and encouraging.”

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