Republicans are increasingly testing social media rules around political violence
Facebook and Twitter said Monday that Republican Senate candidate Eric Greitens’s campaign video urging voters to go “hunting” for members of his own party while brandishing a gun violated their rules against incitement and hateful conduct.
The incident marked the latest instance of a high-profile Republican testing tech platforms’ policies around political violence — rules that are likely to come under greater scrutiny as the U.S. midterm elections approach.
The ad shows the former Missouri governor standing outside a home while holding a shotgun and surrounded by people in tactical gear. “Today we’re goin’ RINO hunting,” Greitens says in the clip — a reference to the acronym “Republicans in Name Only” that some conservatives have used to attack GOP lawmakers not allied with former president Donald Trump.
After the tactical team kicks down the door and detonates smoke bombs inside the house, Greitens steps in and says: “Join the MAGA crew. Get a RINO hunting permit.”
Facebook took the most decisive action against the ad, with spokesman Andy Stone saying in a statement Monday afternoon that the company “removed this video for violating our policies prohibiting violence and incitement.”
Shortly after, Twitter placed a warning label on a tweet containing the video, saying it violated the platform’s policies against “abusive behavior.” But unlike Facebook, the company opted to leave up the tweet, adding a label that Twitter had “determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
In a statement, Twitter spokesperson Trenton Kennedy said the action means that “engagements with the Tweet will be limited” and that users will be unable to like it or to share it without adding more commentary, as is typical for such labels. The video reached nearly 2 million views and at least 7,000 shares on Twitter before the platform took the step.
YouTube is the only major platform that both left the video up and said it did not break its rules. “While this video does not violate our Community Guidelines, it is not monetizing nor running as an ad,” spokesperson Ivy Choi said in a statement later Monday. The video has over 80,000 views as of Tuesday morning, though YouTube does not show how often it’s been shared.
Greitens responded by accusing Facebook and Twitter of censorship. “Big Tech is once again meddling in our elections and putting their thumb on the scale,” he posted on the two platforms. “When I’m U.S. Senator, I will fight against the disgusting tech oligarchs from stealing any more elections.”
Since the 2020 election cycle, Republican officials and candidates have repeatedly run afoul of tech companies’ rules against inciting or glorifying violence.
It’s a trend that has coincided with mounting political violence and threats against public officials, as my colleague Amy Wang reported Monday.
In September 2020, Facebook removed a post by then-candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene showing her holding a gun next to images of three progressive congresswomen, which the company said at the time violated its policies against incitement of violence, as I reported.
In November, Twitter added a “public interest notice” over a tweet by Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.) that included an altered, animated video depicting him killing Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and swinging two swords at President Biden.
Twitter said it violated its policy against hateful conduct, but did not remove it. Instagram, owned by Facebook, labeled the video as “sensitive content” but found that it didn’t break its rules, as CNN reported.
Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and a slew of other platforms cited similar policies or a heightened risk of violence in suspending or permanently booting Trump’s accounts after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
The pro-Trump mob was spurred on by the president’s social media posts baselessly alleging the 2020 election was rigged and claiming mass voter fraud.
Now, with over 100 GOP primary winners trumpeting those baseless claims leading up to the midterm elections, the allegations are poised to take center stage during yet another cycle.
With the political temperature rising, that could lead to more collisions with platforms’ policies against incitement of violence — marking another major test for tech companies.
Amazon delivery-by-drone service faces backlash in rural California
Some residents of Lockeford, Calif., didn’t know of the plan when it was publicly announced last week, Caroline O’Donovan reports, and reacted to the news with anger.
Amazon liked Lockeford because of its weather, rural topography, highway access and customer base, a former Amazon employee told Caroline. But the person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said it was chosen with the expectation that there wouldn’t be an excessive amount of red tape.
It “felt sort of cowboy and do what you will out there,” the former Amazon employee said. Amazon spokesperson Av Zammit said the company is cooperating with local authorities. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)
Apple Store workers near Baltimore voted to join union
The Towson, Md., store is the first Apple Store in the country to vote to join a union, Rachel Lerman, Aaron Gregg and Praveena Somasundaram report. It comes amid a wave of unionization amid the pandemic and could portend future organizing efforts at Apple.
Workers in at least two other Apple Stores are trying to organize, my colleagues report. Apple has more than 270 retail stores across the country.
President Biden told reporters he was proud of the Apple workers, saying that “workers have a right to determine under what condition they are going to work or not.”
Apple declined to comment after the vote. Apple spokesman Josh Lipton referred to a previous comment noting that the company is “fortunate to have incredible retail team members and we deeply value everything they bring to Apple. He added that Apple offers “very strong compensation and benefits” to its employees.
Thiel’s departure from Facebook board came after years-long philosophical rift
PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel was Facebook’s longest-serving board member and its first outside investor. Thiel has long participated in the culture wars, but his political ambitions grew increasingly at odds with his position within Facebook, an enemy of the American right, Elizabeth Dwoskin reports.
“Interviews with members of his inner circle indicate that his departure was years in the making, driven by a growing philosophical rift between Thiel and Facebook as conservatives became uncomfortable with the tech industry’s willingness to police online speech,” Elizabeth writes. “Thiel, according to those close to him, lost his appetite to serve as Facebook’s defender as his political aspirations matured.”
Thiel has injected more than $20 million into 16 political campaigns this cycle, including races involving his acolytes. He still maintains ties with Trump and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Thiel declined interview requests. Facebook referred The Post to chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s previous comments about Thiel’s departure, which said that “Peter has been a valuable member of our board and I’m deeply grateful for everything he has done for our company.”
BuzzFeed News on Friday reported that internal audio from meetings at TikTok shows that Chinese engineers had access to U.S. user data. Reporter Emily Baker-White, who wrote the story:
Some of you may have noticed that TikTok put up a blog post this morning about their US data practices! It was published just about exactly at the deadline we had given them for comment for this story. We will certainly have some follow-up questions.https://t.co/dDlZ1mEL9H
— Emily Baker-White (@ebakerwhite) June 17, 2022
Reporter Mark Di Stefano:
The MIT Technology Review’s Eileen Guo:
- Third Way hosts an event on China and the digital world order Tuesday at 11 a.m.
- The Pew Charitable Trusts holds its Broadband Access Summit on Tuesday and Wednesday.
- White House special assistants Tim Wu and Peter Harrell discuss the Biden administration’s Declaration for the Future of the Internet at a Brookings Institution event Wednesday at 2 p.m.