On Wednesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) asked representatives of Facebook and Twitter if a pro-life tweet quoting Mother Teresa constituted “hate speech.” They remained silent for ten seconds, and then the Twitter representative attempted to dodge the question.
“Here is a tweet that says, ‘Abortion is profoundly anti-woman,'” Cruz said, gesturing to a large picture of a tweet with a picture of the Roman Catholic saint Mother Teresa. “It’s a quote from Mother Theresa and this tweet was blocked. It is fairly remarkable that Mother Theresa is now deemed hate speech.”
The tweet was later restored, and is still on Twitter.
— MarjorieDannenfelser (@marjoriesba) March 8, 2017
“Do either of you agree with the proposition that Mother Theresa is issuing hate speech?” the senator asked. About ten seconds passed with no response.
“Is this hate speech?” he repeated.
Finally, Carlos Monje Jr., Twitter’s director of public policy and philanthropy, answered, saying, “Susan B. Anthony List is currently an advertiser in good standing.”
“You’re very good at not answering questions,” Cruz responded. “Is this hate speech?”
“Every tweet has a context behind it,” Monje insisted.
“That’s a full tweet. There’s no more context. This is it,” Cruz replied.
“Um… I can tell you that we have actioned tweets on both sides of this debate,” Monje added.
Ultimately, neither Monje nor Facebook Public Policy Director Neil Potts responded to the key question of whether or not the tweet constituted hate speech.
To some degree, Americans should sympathize with Monje and Potts. Neither of them made the decision to censor the tweet, and they have to answer for an action in which they had no direct role. However, their companies do need to explain why pro-life messages frequently disappear from the platforms. It is unfortunate that Monje and Potts have to give an answer, but they do.
Most of the pro-life messages censored on Facebook and Twitter are later restored (like the Mother Teresa tweet), but conservatives like Cruz are asking for a standard by which to judge which messages will be taken down in the first place. It appears this standard disfavors conservatives. While it does also apply to liberals, it seems disproportionate.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.