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May 6, 2024 Big Tech Censorship/Surveillance News

Censorship/Surveillance

‘Despicable’: Facebook Censors RFK Jr. Campaign Video, Calls It a ‘Mistake’

The super PAC supporting Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for president said it plans to sue Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, for the company’s “blatant censorship” of a new film about Kennedy and his work challenging corporate corruption.

RFK Jr. with word "censored" on top

The super PAC supporting Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for president said it plans to sue Meta, the owner of Facebook and Instagram, for the company’s “blatant censorship” of a new film about Kennedy and his work challenging corporate corruption.

Super PACs, or “political action committees,” can raise unlimited sums of money to advocate for or against political candidates, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Actor Woody Harrelson narrates the 30-minute biographical film, “Who is Bobby Kennedy?,” which details Kennedy’s life and why he’s running for president.

American Values 2024, the super PAC, bought the film after the creator of Apple TV+’s “The Morning Show” Jay Carson and director Mike Piscitelli produced it.

Kennedy, Children’s Health Defense (CHD) founder and chairman-on-leave, said in a press release, “If supporters of all candidates do not have equal access to the digital public square, then we have a democracy in name only.”

He added:

“This goes beyond restricting freedom of expression on issues and ideas. Meta is censoring a biographical film about a major candidate in an election year. How can voters make an informed choice if they are denied basic information about a candidate’s life?”

Kennedy said he and his team “are looking into the legal implications of Meta’s actions and whether we have grounds for a lawsuit.”

“But we are hoping that this egregious violation of the spirit — if not the letter — of the principle of free speech will meet with condemnation in the court of public opinion.”

Meta says it was a ‘mistake’

Meta spokesperson Andy Stone on May 5 told The New York Times that the video was inaccurately flagged as spam and “mistakenly blocked.” The issue “was corrected within a few hours,” he said.

The Defender asked Meta to clarify how or why it had mistakenly flagged the video as spam — “Was there an error in the spam-finding algorithm? Was there something in the film’s content that appeared to be spam?” — and whether the company had issued an official apology for the mistake.

Meta spokesperson Corey Chambliss told The Defender, “Thank you for reaching out. The link was mistakenly blocked and was quickly restored once the issue was discovered.”

Kennedy, CHD have faced censorship ‘for years’

CHD CEO Mary Holland called Meta’s censorship of the video “despicable.” She said it’s “the continuation of the censorship Children’s Health Defense has faced for years.”

The film includes footage of CHD President Emerita Lyn Redwood, describing how Kennedy stood up to Big Pharma after he listened to mothers who believed their children had been harmed by mercury in vaccines.

In the film, Redwood and Kennedy explain that top U.S. public health officials in 2000 withheld Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data from public view — data that showed mercury-based thimerosal, a vaccine ingredient, could have been responsible for a dramatic increase in autism and other neurological disorders among children.

Holland told The Defender, “Health and democracy will not survive in the face of pervasive censorship. The truth, especially about vaccines, is critical.”

“CHD is proud to be at the forefront of the battle for freedom of the press,” she said, “and freedom of speech, indispensable constitutional principles for ensuring our children’s health and future.”

CHD General Counsel Kim Mack Rosenberg agreed, saying CHD is proud to be “taking a lead in courts around the country to stand up for free speech rights.”

CHD has a pending lawsuit against Facebook (Meta Platforms) in the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals. The suit alleges government officials colluded with the social media giant to censor CHD.

Facebook deplatformed CHD on Aug. 17, 2022, and disabled Kennedy’s personal Instagram account on Feb. 10, 2021.

“In addition to Meta Platforms,” Holland said, “CHD is litigating against legacy media institutions, including The Associated Press, Reuters and The Washington Post, for violating antitrust laws.” The suit alleges members of the Trusted News Initiative violated antitrust laws and the U.S. Constitution when they collectively colluded with tech giants to censor online news.

Kennedy and CHD in March 2023 sued President Joe Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top administration officials and federal agencies, alleging they “waged a systematic, concerted campaign” to compel the nation’s three largest social media companies to censor constitutionally protected speech.

The case, Kennedy v. Biden, was consolidated in July 2023, in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, with another censorship lawsuit, Murthy v. Missouri. The U.S. Supreme Court in March heard arguments on an injunction related to the case and is expected to rule early this summer.

Mack Rosenberg said that the plaintiffs in these cases — particularly Kennedy v. Biden — represent the interests of Americans who have a First Amendment right to receive information from a variety of sources.

“It is antithetical to democracy,” Mack Rosenberg said, “to allow the government and its proxies to dictate what we can read, hear, and see and, frankly, insults the intelligence of Americans by essentially suggesting Americans cannot weigh information from a variety of viewpoints in order to make independent decisions.”

Super PAC accuses Meta of ‘brazenly censoring speech’

After buying the film, American Values 2024 on May 3 launched it on YouTube.

American Values 2024 is a super PAC “committed to educating and mobilizing voters to elect candidates who will restore and protect the soul of democracy” in the U.S. The group endorses Kennedy for the presidency.

The super PAC today wrote on Substack that many viewers tried to share the film on Facebook and Instagram but couldn’t.

The reasons Meta gave users were inconsistent, according to a press release by Kennedy’s presidential campaign team. Some were told the video was spam. Others were told the link went to a malicious website or that it contained “graphic and violent content.”

Some viewers were told the video violated community standards, while others simply got an error message saying that the “upload failed.”

Kennedy’s campaign collected screenshots from users and released a sampling in its press release.

Carson said, “Silicon Valley companies blocking political ads with which they don’t agree, while giving shifting and dissembling answers as to why they’re doing it, strikes at the heart of our democracy.”

After Meta started allowing users to share the video, it continued algorithmically suppressing the video — “to the point where the video gets zero views even when posted by users with thousands of followers,” the Kennedy team’s press release said.

“Not only were users prevented from posting the video, but in many cases, Meta also suspended their accounts for two or six days,” the press release said.

Despite Meta’s censorship, the film is trending on X, formerly known as Twitter, where the video has been viewed more than 12 million times and shared by thousands, the super PAC said.

The super PAC said the film shows that the prevailing narrative about Kennedy — which portrays him as “crazy” and “dangerous” — doesn’t match “the reality of who he is and the work he’s done as a successful environmental attorney and corruption fighter.”

The Defender on occasion posts content related to Children’s Health Defense’s nonprofit mission that features Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s views on the issues CHD and The Defender regularly cover. In keeping with Federal Election Commission rules, this content does not represent an endorsement of Mr. Kennedy, who is on leave from CHD and is running as an independent for president of the U.S.

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