Lila Rose, president of Live Action, was in the White House on Thursday to talk about censorship and Big Tech’s attempts to mute the spread of pro-life information with President Donald Trump. Live Action, one of the pro-life movement’s biggest and most influential companies, has run into issues across social media. They’re well known for their videos describing abortion procedures, undercover clinic videos in Planned Parenthood locations, and other materials that support a pro-life worldview.
Social media is a powerful tool & Big Tech claims to be “politically neutral” & to not “discriminate” based on viewpoint
But it’s a flat-out lie & every user deserves to know
Glad to be headed to the White House today to discuss how pro-life & conservative speech is censored
— Lila Rose (@LilaGraceRose) July 11, 2019
Pinterest removed its account and, when other users attempt to pin content from the organization, the content is placed on the same lists as pornographic material. Project Veritas published internal material from a Pinterest employee, available here, about this decision.
— Alison H.Centofante (@AlisonHowardC) June 11, 2019
Alison Centofante, director of external affairs at Live Action, says that their Pinterest account was removed permanently from Pinterest for “harmful misinformation, [which] includes medical misinformation and conspiracies that turn individuals and facilities into targets for harassment or violence.” In addition, Live Action says that Pinterest describes their content as having “immediate and detrimental effects on [a Pinterest user’s] health or on public safety.”
Live Action has also had problems with Twitter, where Lila Rose and Live Action are both unable to run paid ads. Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood Action, their lobbying arm, are both able to run ads on the site. In order to run ads on Twitter, Live Action says that they would be required to remove all pro-life content from both their Twitter feeds and their own website. This means that they want to control the content not only on their own platform, but Live Action’s own virtual property. Twitter’s overreach (and bias) is clear.
In June, Google updated their ad policies about “healthcare” topics, including abortion, catching Live Action in their net, as well. No longer does Live Action come up high in “abortion” searches. As per the new policy, “Advertisers who want to run ads using keywords related to getting an abortion will first need to be certified as an advertiser that either provides abortions or does not provide abortions.” This will lead to pro-life groups getting labeled on the results:
“To get certified, advertisers must submit an application where they self-declare as an organization that either provides abortions or does not provide abortions. The application will require some basic information about your organization. Once your submitted information has been reviewed and verified, you’ll receive a certification. Depending on how you’re certified Google will automatically generate one of the following in-ad disclosures for your abortion product or service ads: ‘Provides abortions’ or ‘Does not provide abortions.’”
Google is swaying both what people are viewing and how they will view it.
On YouTube, Live Action can’t run ads about their videos to encourage others to find their content, and they also have been blocked from monetizing or running ads on their own videos.
This pretty roundly completes the shutdown of Live Action’s ability to share ideas or materials across social media, with Facebook and Instagram being the only official hold outs.
All of these companies need to decide if they want to be treated like publishers or platforms. They’re attempting to straddle this line, claiming exemptions from liability on the content on their servers as platforms while simultaneously censoring content. It’s unreasonable and irresponsible for them to claim that they’re a neutral host for information, hiding behind Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act.
True platforms remain that way by remaining neutral on the material there: “The Internet and other interactive computer services offer a forum for a true diversity of political discourse, unique opportunities for cultural development, and myriad avenues for intellectual activity.” It’s clear that their current actions violate this and that they are instead acting as publishers and should be held to publishing standards.
If they, as private businesses, want to moderate who can buy ad space, who can post certain types of content, and what that content looks like, then they should accept the liability for the posts that users make on their sites. If the tech giants want to block pro-life content, they need to be prepared to also accept legal liability for the various words and images uploaded. If that’s less objectionable for them than allowing pro-life people to talk about the sanctity of life, than that’s for each company to decide.
It’s time, though, for them to stop having the best of all worlds. Act like a publisher like this, picking and choosing your preferred ideology and favored users, and accept that liability. Want the shielding afforded to platforms? Then it’s time to back off conservative people and their media and let them run their ads. Censorship comes with strings.