Facebook Suppresses Story Critical of Black Lives Matter; Censorship Alive and Well Despite Zuckerberg Assurances

Last month, CEO Mark Zuckerberg hosted a summit with “leading conservatives” at Facebook’s Menlo Park, Calif. offices, in which he sought to ease concerns about a liberal bias in the social media company’s “trending” features.

Whether that problem has been fixed or not, it appears that Facebook is currently engaging in “viewpoint discrimination” in another way, namely in its service which allows users to “boost” a story, for which Facebook receives a fee.

On Friday of last week, we posted a story on our website and on our Facebook page titled “Prosecutors Clear Police in Jamar Clark Death; Demagogues Cry Foul.”  Authored by Carl Horowitz of our staff, it is the story of the exploitation of the shooting of a black suspect by two white police officers in Minneapolis by Black Lives Matter and other extremists to inflame racial tension.

Almost simultaneously, we posted another story titled “House Thwarts New Assault on Office of Congressional Ethics,” paying a small fee to boost its audience. This feature, which emphasized the efforts by Rep. Steven Pearce (R-New Mexico) to cut the budget of the office and featured his nondescript photo, boosted without a problem.

That was not the case with the Jamar Clark feature, which built on NLPC’s extensive research on the Black Lives Matter movement. Less than 24 hours after we posted and boosted the Pearce article on Facebook, we attempted to post and boost the Clark article, early Monday evening. It would be the first of four different attempts to reach a large audience for that post on Facebook.

The articles would post, reaching only a handful of readers – but Facebook would not allow them to be boosted to thousands more of those readers who NLPC wanted to pay to reach.

Our first effort to post included an unremarkable photo of a standoff between protesters over Jamar Clark’s death and Minneapolis police. The effort to boost that post remained stuck in an endless “In Review” queue (Facebook always must pre-approve posts and ads, which usually only takes no more than 10 to 15 minutes). So the following day we gave up, deleted the post, and tried again to post and boost using a Black Lives Matter protest photo we have used several times previously, without a problem from Facebook. This version never implemented the boost either, with a notification that there was “too much text” in the photo (from the protester’s sign).

We are aware of Facebook’s advertising policies, which include restrictions on mature themes, explicit material, and limitations on text in images. So mid-week we tried again, deleted the second post, and posted yet another version that featured a couple of Minneapolis police officers in riot gear, but who were not involved in any action or engagement with protesters. The photo did not show any weapons either. But again Facebook placed the boost of the post in its “in review” black hole, without rendering a decision.

Finally, early Thursday morning, we deleted the third post and tried to re-post and boost again with uncontroversial headshot photos of the Minneapolis officers involved in the Jamar Clark incident. This fourth attempt has also been met with Facebook’s stonewalling “in review” silence.

Again, we had no problem posting and boosting a feature about a Republican congressman’s attempts to thwart ethics oversight, but another post on Black Lives Matter nearly at the same time has been rejected – four times. Clearly NLPC faces higher levels of scrutiny – probably thanks to our recent posts critical of Zuckerberg and other social media company CEOs for their censorship of conservatives and support of liberal causes – and specifically Black Lives Matter.

With Zuckerberg and Facebook, it’s hard to believe there’s any accident. After all, Facebook was recently listed as a co-sponsor to Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. Zuckerberg is also on record prohibiting his employees from criticism of Black Lives Matter.

If Zuckerberg wants to continue to reap the financial benefits of the use of the Facebook platform by public policy groups, he needs to end the censorship.

We will now attempt to boost this story. We will report back on whether it is allowed, or not.

UPDATE 6/20/16- We were able to successfully boost this story. Maybe Facebook realized that censoring a story about censoring a story would be too rich in irony. Curiously, the results of our boost seemed out of proportion to the amount we paid Facebook to boost the story. It is almost as if Facebook is trying to make it up to us.
I'm glad our second story was not suppressed, but why do we have to raise a stink just to be treated fairly? Remember, when we boost a story, we pay Facebook a fee. If Facebook loses credibility with groups like us, it will lose significant revenue. Our suspicions were heightened in this case because Mark Zuckerberg (and other Silicon Valley CEOs) have a supportive relationship with Black Lives Matter. If Zuckerberg wants to promote racial division and violence, it is his right. But he should understand that he can't claim that Facebook is operated impartially.



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