On Wednesday, the White House launched a new tool for people to use if they feel they’ve been wrongly censored, banned, or suspended on social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter.
“Too many Americans have seen their accounts suspended, banned, or fraudulently reported for unclear ‘violations’ of user policies,” the site reads. “No matter your views, if you suspect political bias caused such an action to be taken against you, share your story with President Trump.”
“TOO MANY AMERICANS HAVE SEEN THEIR ACCOUNTS SUSPENDED, BANNED, OR FRAUDULENTLY REPORTED”
A Twitter spokesperson responded to the new tool saying, “We enforce the Twitter Rules impartially for all users, regardless of their background or political affiliation. We are constantly working to improve our systems and will continue to be transparent in our efforts.”
Facebook, Google, and YouTube did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Over the past few months, Republicans have taken aim at social media networks, citing claims that conservatives have been wrongly censored on these platforms. Some committees, like House Energy and Commerce and Senate Judiciary, have even held hearings on the issue where lawmakers questioned officials from companies like Facebook and Twitter over the alleged bias.
The outrage started last April when the House Judiciary Committee invited pro-Trump online personalities Diamond and Silk to discuss being “censored” on social media. This spun off into the Senate where Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) later made it a key policy issue by holding a hearing with Facebook and Twitter executives to discuss the alleged bias. Only two Democrats attended the hearing where other Republicans like Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) questioned the representatives on why specific posts from their offices or from conservative films were taken down.
Just last month, President Trump met with Twitter founder and CEO Jack Dorsey. Twitter representatives said that the meeting was supposed to focus on what the platform was doing to aid the opioid epidemic and discuss the health of the platform, but it was later reported that Trump spent a significant portion of their 30-minute discussion complaining that he was losing followers.
Other members of the Trump family, like Don Jr., have also voiced concern of the deplatforming of right-wing activists. In a tweet last month, President Trump’s eldest son wrote “The purposeful & calculated silencing of conservatives on Facebook & the rest of the Big Tech monopoly men should terrify everyone,” after Facebook announced that it would banning conspiracy theorist Alex Jones along with other far-right pundits and activists.
The tool, which is hosted on Typeform, asks users for screenshots and links of the offending content, and provides a text field where users can describe the enforcement actions taken against them. The user is also asked to choose between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube or “other” as the platform where the offense took place. (Facebook and Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.)
The tool also collects significant personal information from the user, and near the end invites users to opt into email newsletters from President Trump, “so we can update you without relying on platforms like Facebook and Twitter.” A separate question points users to an extensive user agreement, and makes clear that “you understand this form is for information gathering only.”
A later question asks the user what year the Declaration of Independence was signed “just to confirm you aren’t a robot.” This is an unorthodox anti-scripting technique, and a generally ineffective one, given the relative simplicity of automatically entering a number.
Earlier on Wednesday, the White House announced that it would not be endorsing a call from international leaders to combat online extremism as a response to the tragic white nationalist terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand. In a statement, the White House said that it “was not currently in a position to join the endorsement.”