At the White House this past Thursday, President Donald Trump held a summit calling out Silicon Valley for their censorship of conservative and pro-life voices online. My organization, Susan B. Anthony List, participated in the summit, joining President Trump and our friend, Live Action President Lila Rose in demanding transparency and accountability.
The mainstream media continue to deny the evidence, but pro-life advocates have experienced a consistent, years-long pattern of bias that cannot be dismissed as mere coincidence or the error of an algorithm. It spans several different platforms and has been experienced by many different groups and individuals, including SBA List.
Since 2017, Twitter has refused paid advertising from Live Action unless they purge content from their own website — including content calling for an end to taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. Last month Live Action learned Pinterest intentionally added them to a “pornography block list.” Pinterest then banned Live Action permanently, accusing them of “misinformation and conspiracies” and of having a detrimental effect on public safety.
Live Action is not alone. Twitter blocked a political ad submitted by Congressman Marsha Blackburn in which she discussed her efforts “to stop the sale of body parts” by Planned Parenthood. After widespread criticism, Twitter reversed its decision. Then when the pro-life film Unplanned opened in U.S. theaters, Twitter suspended its account, offering the most tenuous of explanations after the fact.
YouTube removed footage from David Daleiden and the Center for Medical Progress showing Planned Parenthood employees describing, in brutal detail, tearing off the limbs of unborn babies in late-term abortions. A year later, YouTube suspended Abortion Pill Reversal’s account citing its policy on “harmful or dangerous content,” explaining that it “doesn’t allow content that encourages or promotes violent or dangerous acts that have an inherent risk of serious physical harm or death” — a ludicrous accusation to level at a group that saves lives by helping women who change their minds after initiating the chemical abortion process.
At SBA List, we’ve meticulously documented our problems with Twitter and Facebook, which began more than two years ago. We use these platforms to advertise not just to our base, but to people who we think could be moved by our message. Our paid ads blocked by Twitter have included a pro-life quote by Mother Teresa and ads calling on constituents to tweet at their representatives to urge them to vote for a pro-life health care reform bill. In September 2017, Twitter blocked an SBA List video ad advocating for John Adams for Virginia attorney general, stating that it was unacceptable to use the phrase “killing babies” in an advertisement — never mind that it’s the truth about abortion.
In late 2018, Facebook censored SBA List’s “Charlotte” and “Micah” videos telling the story of children born prematurely, at gestational ages when abortion is permissible, who were given lifesaving care. Days before the 2018 midterm election, our Tennessee campaign ad was censored. Facebook issued us an apology stating the ad “should never have been disapproved,” but just a few hours later a similar ad running in Montana was also censored.
At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing this past April, our Vice President Marilyn Musgrave testified on the ongoing censorship of pro-life speech by social media giants, along with Chuck Konzelman, the writer and director of Unplanned. Sen. Ted Cruz, Texas Republican, showed the entire room the Mother Teresa quote that was banned, asking representatives of Twitter and Facebook, “Is this hate speech?” Their response was stumped silence. Sen. Josh Hawley, Missouri Republican, inquired whether they would commit to making their protocols public or to a third-party audit. They would not.
During the same time period, Planned Parenthood, which commits more than 332,000 abortions and receives more than half a billion dollars in taxpayer funding annually, has been permitted to advertise its brutal business unimpeded. That makes sense considering that, just last month, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg made a million-dollar donation to Planned Parenthood, and Mark Zuckerberg confessed that Facebook intentionally blocked pro-life ads in the weeks preceding Ireland’s abortion referendum despite the lack of any relevant Irish laws one way or the other. No evidence of bias? They’re not even trying to hide it.
Social media giants wield unprecedented control over global discourse. In her testimony to Congress, Ms. Musgrave pointed out that more than 80 percent of the U.S. population uses social media. Powerful as they are, though, these massive companies evidently are threatened by the success of the pro-life message. That is key: we would not be targeted if we were not effective. We will never quit speaking out and working to end the brutality of abortion. We are grateful to President Trump for calling on Big Tech to stop censorship and uphold principles of fairness and free speech.
• Marjorie Dannenfelser is president of the national pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List.