On Thursday, Facebook’s stock dropped by 19 percent, wiping out $119 billion in market value. Also on Thursday, President Donald Trump echoed allegations that Twitter had “shadow banned” Republican congressmen, pushing down Twitter shares as well. Twitter insisted to PJ Media that the “shadow banning” was unintentional and has been fixed, and Facebook’s stock drop seems directly connected to declines in expected revenue.
That said, these tremors may be ominous portents of things to come, according to conservative groups sounding the alarm about the left-wing smear outlet behind much social media censorship: the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
“Facebook’s plummeting stock price is just a symptom of a larger backlash against big tech,” Marissa Streit, CEO at Prager University, told PJ Media Thursday. “Instead of platforms that celebrate free speech, companies like Facebook and YouTube have chosen to become publishers and curators, ‘shadow banning’ ideologies they don’t agree with.”
PragerU, which is currently suing Google for suppressing its videos on Youtube, has also spoken out against the SPLC for branding mainstream conservative groups “hate groups” on par with the Ku Klux Klan.
Streit argued that social media’s ideological interference “runs counter to not only the First Amendment — which is at the heart of our lawsuit against Google — but also good business principles as they alienate half the country. That these companies trust and use SPLC is the main reason it is so important to expose the SPLC.”
Jeremy Tedesco, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), also traced the problem back to the SPLC. “Conservative and religious groups are deeply concerned about social media companies restricting their speech,” Tedesco told PJ Media.
“The recent report that Twitter shadow-banned prominent Republican voices fuels those concerns. Just weeks ago, Facebook even deemed portions of our own Declaration of Independence as ‘hate speech,'” the ADF counsel explained. “But the problem runs far deeper.”
“Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies rely on the Southern Poverty Law Center to police so-called ‘hate speech’ on their platforms, even though it has lost all credibility as a civil rights watchdog,” Tedesco explained. “Commentators across the political spectrum have criticized SPLC for decades as a far-left organization that brands people it disagrees with as ‘haters’ and ‘extremists.'”
ADF is among the groups the SPLC has maligned as “hate groups,” despite its track record of winning 9 Supreme Court cases in the past seven years. Tedesco warned that “this problem won’t be fixed until these companies stop taking their cues from left-wing activists and start taking their free speech commitments seriously.”
Mat Staver, founder and chairman of Liberty Counsel — another SPLC-marked “hate group” which is suing GuideStar for adopting the SPLC’s libel — warned that backlash against Facebook, Twitter, and other social media platforms “will continue to grow.”
“Some people are getting tired of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, getting fed up with their censorship,” Staver told PJ Media. He noted Facebook’s documented decline among Americans under 25. “Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are going to face more headwinds due to their insistence on censoring.”
If social media companies “don’t police themselves, then they are inviting the government to police them in the same way they police a public utility,” he argued. These platforms have “replaced telephone and in many ways have replaced radio and TV.”
Staver noted that if the government rules social media companies are public utilities, “they can regulate content that is illegal” like obscenity and communications inciting physical harm, but when they attempt to silence non-violent “hate speech,” “they’ve crossed the line and they’re inviting government regulation.”
“They’re bringing it on themselves,” Staver quipped.
He also pointed to the SPLC as a major source of this attack. “The Southern Poverty Law Center is providing false propaganda that is being fed into Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, to censor organizations and people with which the SPLC disagrees ideologically,” Staver said. “It creates a false category of ‘hate group’ and applies that category to people they disagree with, knowing those people do not advocate violence and are peaceful and law-abiding organizations.”
Staver also pointed to two terrorist attacks in Washington, D.C.: one in 2012 at the offices of the Family Research Council (FRC), and one last year at a practice for the Congressional Baseball Game. The FRC shooter, Floyd Corkins, told the FBI he targeted FRC because it was on the SPLC “hate map.” Last year’s shooter, James Hodgkinson, “liked” the SPLC on Facebook and the SPLC had repeatedly attacked Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.).
“There’s a direct link between that false and dangerous propaganda from the SPLC and these individuals that have taken steps to commit violent crimes,” Staver said.
He warned that when social media companies are “relying on SPLC to be a censor, they’re playing with fire.”
Interestingly, when the SPLC sent Facebook a list of 200 “hate groups” on its platform, Facebook only removed about 50 of them. For its part, Twitter has teamed up with the SPLC, calling the left-wing group a “safety partner.” The Family Research Council took exception to this.
“Recent news reports have revealed that the Twitter accounts of GOP Members of Congress have been hidden and suppressed,” Chris Gacek, a senior fellow at FRC, told PJ Media. “However, FRC has seen no definitive evidence that its Twitter pages have been interfered with similarly.”
Gacek remarked on how odd it is that Twitter continues to partner with the SPLC — which recently paid a $3.375 million settlement to a man it falsely attacked as an “anti-Muslim extremist” — while responding to the recent “shadow banning” scandal.
“Especially now that Twitter is engaging in damage control – we are astonished to find that it continues to work with the SPLC in policing content, even as the SPLC grapples with its own credibility crisis,” Gacek told PJ Media.
Such a partnership comes as no surprise to J. Michael Waller, a spokesman for the Center for Security Policy, another conservative group labeled a “hate group” by the SPLC.
“Twitter, Facebook, and Google have effectively deputized the Southern Poverty Law Center as a political police to determine who lives and who dies on the Internet,” Waller told PJ Media. “These companies and others have lost the public trust by waging a covert campaign against millions of their users.”
“They manufactured stealth political biases into their algorithms and rules of service to discriminate against people whose views they don’t like,” Waller explained. “The giant social media and search engine companies simply cannot be trusted.”
Waller argued that these companies “politicize their services by building political bias into their algorithms and human editorial censors. They throttle or shadow-ban conservatives, traditional Christians, and Americans who value Western civilization and a strong national security.”
The Center for Security Policy spokesman noted Amazon’s use of the SPLC to screen for its Amazon Smile charity program — a practice that encouraged a lawsuit from D. James Kennedy Ministries (DJKM) — and PayPal’s decision to ban JihadWatch due to the SPLC list. (The Ruth Institute also found itself cut off from an online payment processor, Vanco Payments.)
“These companies rely on hard science and mathematics to deliver services, yet they chose malicious groups like the SPLC — whose methods are anything but scientific — to determine how people and organizations are treated on social network and search engine results,” Waller declared. “This inconsistency shows a sense of corporate malice that shareholders must address.”
DJKM also spoke out against that malice. “It didn’t take a crystal ball to figure out which way things would go when social media tech companies like Facebook and Twitter started discriminating against certain content,” John Rabe, DJKM’s director of creative production, told PJ Media. He noted Mark Zuckerberg’s concession that Silicon Valley is “an extremely left-leaning place.”
“The SPLC has happily played into this previously-existing bias and has legitimized it by labeling mainstream conservative and Christian groups as ‘hate groups,'” Rabe explained. “In Silicon Valley and in the media, it’s virtually taken for granted that the SPLC is a legitimate, unbiased clearinghouse for information on hate groups. In reality, nothing could be further from the truth.”
Instead, the SPLC “is highly partisan, ideologically driven, and doing battle in the culture war for the far left.”
“For decades, it was axiomatic on the left that free speech is one of the highest virtues,” Rabe noted. “Now, the leftists running major tech and social media companies are happily censoring viewpoints they don’t like, all with the aid and cover of the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
Jennifer Morse, founder and president of the Ruth Institute, told PJ Media what it was like to be maligned by this left-wing smear organization.
“When the SPLC labeled the Ruth Institute as a ‘hate group,’ we were not contacted at any stage. We have no idea how we got on that list, or how we would go about getting off,” she told PJ Media. “If Facebook or any other news entity is using the SPLC’s listing as the basis for its ‘shadow banning,’ well, let’s just say they’ve got some explaining to do.”
Facebook and Twitter may weather the current stock drop and “shadow banning” controversy, but they should watch the company they keep. If they continue to use the SPLC to “determine who lives and who dies on the Internet,” they may face a mass exodus or worse — government regulation.