In the wake of the Capitol riots, Big Tech companies appear to have crossed a Rubicon in the censorship of conservative speech. Twitter and Facebook banned President Donald Trump, while Apple, Google, and Amazon booted Parler. Facebook throttled conservative radio giant Rush Limbaugh. Yet Big Tech isn’t just targeting conservatives — the purge is targeting libertarians as well.
Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), a libertarian icon whose page has more than 1 million “likes,” found himself locked out of his account on Monday — without an explanation.
“With no explanation other than ‘repeatedly going against our community standards,’ [Facebook] has blocked me from managing my page. Never have we received notice of violating community standards in the past and nowhere is the offending post identified,” Paul posted on Twitter. “The only thing we posted to Facebook today was my weekly ‘Texas Straight Talk’ column, which I have published every week since 1976.”
The only thing we posted to Facebook today was my weekly "Texas Straight Talk" column, which I have published every week since 1976.
— Ron Paul (@RonPaul) January 11, 2021
Big-Tech companies have clamped down on various conservatives after pro-Trump protesters breached the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday in an attempt to prevent Vice President Mike Pence and Congress from counting the Electoral College votes to certify Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. Many have accused President Donald Trump of inciting violence in the situation, even though Trump told protesters to go home. While the president did engage in dangerous rhetoric by insisting he won the election by a “landslide” and by urging Pence to unilaterally reject some electoral votes, he did not explicitly call for violence or an attack on the Capitol.
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Even so, after the riots, Twitter suspended Trump’s account for the first time and Facebook permanently banned the president. After Trump deleted the tweets Twitter had flagged and had his account restored, Twitter proceeded to ban him entirely on Friday, and then it banned the official President of the United States (POTUS) account.
Facebook throttled conservative radio giant Rush Limbaugh, notifying him that his “Page has reduced distribution and other restrictions because of repeated sharing of false news.” Limbaugh left Twitter in protest after the platform banned Trump. And now Facebook has locked former Congressman Ron Paul out of his Facebook page without identifying any post where Paul allegedly violated Facebook’s community standards.
Apple and Google removed conservative social media alternative Parler from their app stores, claiming the site had failed to take down posts inciting violence. On Saturday, Amazon announced it would follow suit after employees pressured the company to remove Parler. Parler went offline on Monday and announced it could not secure hosting from companies other than Amazon. Parler filed a lawsuit against Amazon on Monday, claiming that Twitter had also failed to take down posts inciting violence — and indeed had far more of them on its platform.
In attacking Ron Paul, Facebook showed that it is not just going after the Trump-style Republicans. Libertarians are not immune from the purge.
Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.