Social Media Execs Grilled on Censorship of Pro Life Viewpoint

The outrage that ensued after Twitter inexplicably suspended the Unplanned movie account on its opening weekend not only boosted the film, but resulted in a U.S. Senatorial subcommittee hearing on Wednesday during which social media execs were grilled on evidence of “one-sided discrimination” against the movie and the pro-life viewpoint in general.

The Stream is reporting on the meeting which was called by Texas Senator Ted Cruz (R) who heads the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution. The hearing featured eight witnesses, including Unplanned director Chuck Konzelman.

At the top of the list of questions was about the Twitter suspension of the Unplanned movie account on opening weekend.

As Konzelman explained to The Stream, the timing of the suspension was potentially damaging because it occurred during the all-important first weekend of release.

“Opening weekend results determine the course of a film’s theatrical run,” he said. “Much like the advertising spend in a political campaign, the vast majority of the dollars spent in promoting a film are spent to help build up a white-hot-intensity and awareness around one particular date. But instead of election day? For films, it’s the Friday night of opening weekend.”

In his opening statement, Twitter’s public policy director, Carlos Monje, Jr. insisted that the platform is committed to free expression, but issued an unsatisfactory explanation for why the account was banned on its pivotal opening weekend.

“In the recent instance regarding the account @UnplannedMovie, the account was caught in our automated systems used to detect ban evasion,” said Monje. “Ban evasion occurs when an individual registers for a new account despite having been suspended previously for breaking our rules. We reinstated the @UnplannedMovie account as soon as [the mistake] was brought to our attention.”

Konzelman was not convinced. “The reason for the suspension has not — to the best of my knowledge — been made clear, beyond being ‘accidental’ or a ‘mistake,’” he said. “When such ‘accidents’ occur within twelve hours of the film’s theatrical debut, [the] ‘glitch’ is of course suspect.”

The questioning didn’t stop there. Social media execs were grilled about censorship of graphics and content by pro-life groups such as Susan B. Anthony List.

Commenting on one instance in which Twitter blocked a graphic that featured a quote from Mother Teresa, Sen. Cruz said, “It is fairly remarkable that Mother Teresa is now deemed hate speech.”

Monje was again placed on the defensive and insisted that every tweet and every decision made has “context” behind it.

“I can tell you we have actioned accounts on both sides of this debate, including tweets by pro-choice groups.”

The fact that biases exist in social media companies is not debated, even among their top executives. Facebook public policy director Neil Potts admitted that “Silicon Valley tends to be more liberal than not. There is the possibility of unconscious bias.”

This bias can definitely impact the underlying technology issues, Konzelman told The Stream. “The algorithms [for these platforms] are closely guarded secrets. These algorithms may be applied objectively, but I believe there is bias built into the algorithms.”

In fact, last month a former Facebook employee provided evidence of bias on the platform with certain conservative pages tagged with a “deboost” code that is invisible to users.

“You can always point to it and say: The computer made me do it,” said Konzelman. “But a computer does exactly what you to tell it to do.”

Although it was hardly intended, the discriminatory antics of Silicon Valley actually helped to promote the movie which has grossed over $14 million to date. In addition, it has resulted in almost 100 abortion clinic workers looking to get out of the gruesome business.

“After about ten days in release, [Abby Johnson] has had [94] abortion workers in the U.S. seeking help to leave the industry,” said Konzelman. “One percent of the abortion workers in the United States, after getting one look at them[selves] being portrayed on film, have decided to change… what they do for a living.”

Even though the movie’s second weekend was “soft,” the movie is heading into its third weekend with the movie playing on 1,400 screens.

I’m going to count my blessings,” Konzelman concluded. “We get another crack at it, which most films don’t get.”

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