Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has repeatedly told the news media that Twitter doesn’t ban content based on users’ viewpoints.
Earlier this month, at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, members of Congress tested him on that assertion and asked several times whether Twitter engaged in suppressing more conservative voices. Each time, Dorsey replied no.
Even in his written statement to the committee, he said, “The purpose of Twitter is to serve the public conversation, and we do not make value judgments on personal beliefs.”
Yet for years, Twitter has blocked one of the most prominent pro-life organizations online from advertising our pro-life message on the platform. So I can tell you from experience, Jack Dorsey’s statements are not the truth.
Ultrasounds are inflammatory now?
Twitter’s reasoning for blocking Live Action’s message? In emails to us, the company has said that our content violated its sensitive advertising content policy, which prohibits “inflammatory or provocative content which is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction.”
Some examples of this supposedly offensive content include pictures of children developing in the womb and even simple ultrasound images of babies — like the ones that expectant parents hang on their refrigerator doors.
Twitter’s actions suggest it’s OK for Planned Parenthood to tweet that a woman has a right to an abortion, but when I tweet and try to promote that a baby has a right to life, Twitter considers that inflammatory.
Twitter’s actions suggest it’s fine for Planned Parenthood to tweet that taxpayers who don’t want to fund the nation’s largest abortion chain are “extremists,” but when I tweet that there are alternative options to Planned Parenthood, Twitter calls that an offensive violation of policy.
My account and @LiveAction‘s account have been banned from advertising for years. Because we’re pro-life.
Twitter told us our videos, tweets, and even our website content is “inflammatory. pic.twitter.com/7iNKiKzYfU
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) September 5, 2018
While the platform won’t censor our tweets outright, it has banned our ability to promote (advertise) our content beyond our own followers until we delete all of our tweets that it deems offensive. That includes tweets of our undercover investigations into the abortion industry, tweets calling for the end of taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, and any ultrasound images of preborn children.
And because many of our tweets link back to Live Action’s website, Twitter requires us to scrub our website of similar content before it will allow us to promote our tweets again. In other words, Twitter wants Live Action to scrub almost all of its pro-life messaging.
Yet Jack Dorsey says there’s no bias.
Much of the content that Live Action posts on Twitter is used to educate society about abortion and human development in the womb. When people learn the facts about what abortion really does to a child and how developed that child really is, many change their minds about abortion.
One of Live Action’s most successful educational tools is a series of online “Abortion Procedures” videos that use medically accurate animations to show what happens inside the womb during abortions. The videos have been viewed, by our count, nearly 100 million times. A survey Live Action conducted of more than 500 self-described pro-choice women shows that nearly a third of respondents actually had a less favorable view of abortion after watching just one four-minute video. And 49 percent of the pro-choice respondents also thought the videos should be shown to high school sex ed classes.
Yet Twitter labeled these educational videos “offensive” and won’t allow us to pay to promote them beyond our own followers.
What’s so destructive about Twitter’s quiet suppression of our viewpoint is that it’s not just another public policy squabble. This is an issue of life or death for millions of children.
And while Twitter is suppressing our content from being advertised, it’s allowing pro-abortion groups like Reproaction to advertise petitions that encourage Dorsey to continue banning pro-life voices like ours.
That’s right, there’s no bias.
Twitter has to choose: platform or publisher?
Twitter is walking a dangerous line. It seems to pretend that it’s merely a platform for users to post content so it can benefit from legal protections against libel, copyright infringement and other illegal acts by its users. Yet when it chooses to exercise editorial judgment to exclude certain viewpoints, it’s acting more like a publisher, taking more responsibility for its content, and should face the consequence any other publisher would face.
But Twitter wants it both ways: Exercise editorial judgment while accepting no liability — all while claiming that it doesn’t pick winners and losers on hotly contested issues.
Twitter’s early leaders claimed that it was meant to be a neutral platform for all speech, and that’s the model it should return to.
Until then, Twitter’s behavior should cause concern for everyone, not just for those of us in the pro-life movement. When a platform with more than 300 million users chooses to take sides on issues — suppressing certain voices and promoting others — that can have a negative impact on our national conversations, our politics and even our laws.
We should all be wary when an entity that was supposedly created to democratize speech actually wants to control it.
LifeNews Note: Lila Rose is the president and founder of the national pro-life organization Live Action.