Twitter picked a fight with a powerful opponent this week when it refused to allow Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) to promote her Senate campaign launch announcement on its platform. In the ad, Blackburn notes she “fought Planned Parenthood, and we stopped the sale of baby body parts, thank God.” In a move reminiscent of its treatment of other pro-life voices, Twitter blocked the paid promotion of the ad because it believed this claim was “an inflammatory statement that is likely to evoke a strong negative reaction,” before backing down under public pressure.
“An abortion behemoth caught in the act of dismembering prenatal babies should evoke a strong negative reaction,” said Dr. Jerry A. Johnson, President & CEO of NRB. “If Twitter wants to be a free speech platform, it shouldn’t be picking sides against pro-life advocates and their well-documented concerns.”
Blackburn, who is notably the chair of the House Communications & Technology Subcommittee, was referring to the work of a select investigative panel she chaired that was convened after horrific undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress in 2015 showed key Planned Parenthood officials describing the dismemberment of aborted babies and apparently negotiating the sale of their body parts. For example, one Planned Parenthood official appears to admit that abortionists can and will alter late abortion procedures to facilitate the harvesting of intact baby body parts – specifically mentioning hearts, lungs, livers, and intact heads – in order to fill specific pre-orders from tissue procurement labs.
The House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives issued a 471-page report detailing its findings and recommendations regarding the abortion industry and the selling of tissue from aborted babies. The Senate Judiciary Committee also conducted its own review of the actions of several Planned Parenthood and tissue procurement actors, and last year proceeded to make extensively documented criminal referrals to the FBI. The FBI indicated in June that it was reviewing those referrals.
After an uproar, Twitter reversed course and allowed Blackburn’s video to be promoted. A Twitter spokesperson said, “Our ads policies strive to balance protecting our users from potentially distressing content while allowing our advertisers to communicate their messages” and suggested “there is room to refine our policies around these issues.”
Johnson responded, “I am pleased Twitter reversed course in its censorship of Rep. Blackburn, and I hope it will take this opportunity to truly refine its policies in a manner that recognizes the value of America’s fundamental free speech principles, even when the content of that speech does not fully sync with Silicon Valley values.”
By Aaron Mercer, Vice President of Government Relations
Published: October 13, 2017