Instagram blocked a new children’s book from Tennessee Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn and her daughter, Mary Morgan Ketchel, from being promoted on the platform citing the potential that it might “influence the outcome of an election.”
The book titled, “Camilla Can Vote: Celebrating the Centennial of Women’s Right to Vote,” is about a little girl’s trip to a museum where she is transported back to 1920 when Tennessee became the last state to ratify the 19th Amendment passing women’s suffrage. The project came to be Ketchel said, because she wanted to connect little girls to history to celebrate the upcoming centennial of women’s right to vote, highlighting Tennessee’s role in the process along the way.
“This book is written specifically for little girls to help them feel part of history,” Ketchel told The Federalist. “It’s a little feel good, happy book.”
While the children’s history book has nothing to do with current events, Instagram blocked the title from being advertised anyway.
“Your promotion was not approved,” read an Instagram pop-up on Ketchel’s phone two weeks ago in a screenshot shared exclusively with The Federalist. “Your ad may have been rejected if it mentions politicians, topics that could influence the outcome of an election, or existing or proposed legislation.”
“When I started out writing a children’s book about little girls encouraging them to be active in public service, I did not anticipate it to be controversial,” Ketchel said, adding that she submitted an appeal to advertise the title twice and was denied each time.
A Facebook spokesperson told The Federalist that the ad was rejected in error and is now up and running.
“We have policies in place to ensure ads transparency around political ads and given the senator was a co-author it’s reasonable it was flagged but upon review, political ads authorization is not necessary,” said the company.
“This is something for children,” Blackburn told The Federalist, explaining that nowhere in the book does it even mention President Donald Trump or any other politician for that matter.
The only thing political about the book, Blackburn said, was her name appearing on the cover as a co-author reading “Senator Marsha Blackburn” in text that is smaller than her daughter’s.
“It’s about a little girl making the trip to the museum,” Blackburn added, “to talk about the importance of women’s suffrage.” That’s it.
This is not the first time Blackburn has been subject to unfair censorship from social media tech giants.
In 2017, Twitter blocked a Senate campaign ad it deemed “inflammatory” while she was still a member of the House.
— Marsha Blackburn (@VoteMarsha) October 9, 2017
The next day however, Twitter reinstated the video following conservative backlash.
“After further review, we have made the decision to allow the content in question from Rep. Blackburn’s campaign ad to be promoted on our ads platform,” Twitter said in a statement to Recode. “While we initially determined that a small portion of the video used potentially inflammatory language, after considering the ad in the context of the entire message, we believe that there is room to define our policies around these issues.”
Blackburn’s most recent censorship from Instagram comes as Twitter remains under intense scrutiny from Washington after notably fact-checking President Donald Trump’s tweets for the first time on Tuesday regarding mail-in voting.
“There is NO WAY (ZERO!) that Mail-In Ballots will be anything less than substantially fraudulent,” Trump said. Despite Trump’s claims possessing significant merit over the concerns of nationwide mail-in voting implemented just five months out from election day, Twitter tagged the pair of tweets as misleading.
“Get the facts about mail-in ballots,” Twitter tagged on each.
The White House followed up with an executive order Thursday seeking to strip away social media companies’ liability protections under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a move long-advocated by Washington policymakers on both sides of the aisle including Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri who has reined as perhaps big tech’s biggest thorn on Capitol Hill.
Blackburn has also been critical of the large tech giants in Silicon Valley amassing unchecked power. When Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in 2018, Blackburn accused the Facebook executive who also controls Instagram on whether the company had manipulated its algorithms to censor speech.
“It’s just important to know that this is why so many times people say ‘well why is Trump doing something about this,’ it is because conservative bias from the tech companies exist,” Blackburn said. “This is a great example.”
This piece has been updated.