If you can remember much of anything from the 2016 campaign — and it feels like that was almost a decade ago now — you might know that Austin Petersen was an active challenger for for the Libertarian party nomination for president. He was narrowly defeated by the befuddled Gary Johnson, but he’s now running as a Republican for the right to challenge Missouri incumbent Senator Clair McCaskill next November.
Imagine his surprise, then, when he was informed that the opaque powers that be who run Facebook had suspended him from his own page.
As Petersen told reason.com,
In that email interview today, Petersen writes that “I was signed out of Facebook on all my devices [last week], and when I signed back in, I received a message saying that my livestream had been the cause of me being banned for 30 days. This was a livestream done on my professional public facing account (Austin Petersen), but it was my personal account (Austin Wade) that got the ban.”
The livestream in question was promoting a raffle giveaway of an AR-15 rifle. Fox News in reporting on Petersen’s ban today thinks it found in Facebook’s posted “community standards” a reason: “The purchase, sale or trade of firearms, ammunition and explosives between private individuals isn’t allowed on Facebook.” (Fox was not able to get Facebook to speak directly about the matter.)
You don’t say. It was easier to get an audience with Howard Hughes than it is for a typical user to get a hold of anyone who runs the Book of Faces.
The good news is that, in response to accusations of bias by the Commander in Chief himself, none other than Grand Vizier Mark Zuckerberg has assured us that the social media giant doesn’t take sides politically.
Zuckerberg responded with a Facebook post, saying his site had helped generate discussion of a number of topics during the election, that efforts by the company had encouraged “as many as 2 million people” to register to vote, and that the site had not taken sides.
“Trump says Facebook is against him,” Zuckerberg said. “Liberals say we helped Trump. Both sides are upset about ideas and content they don’t like. That’s what running a platform for all ideas looks like.”
Well that’s good to know. So if that’s the case, it would take a real tin foil hatter to conclude that Petersen’s suspension had anything at all to do with politics.
Petersen wonders aloud in his open letter to Zuckerberg about the propriety of seemingly arbitrary clampdowns on a political candidate, especially considering that the company’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg has donated “the maximum allowable amount to my opponent” (incumbent Democrat Claire McCaskill).
Surely there’s no connection between Petersen’s political leanings and the preferences of high-ranking Facebook execs. Right? As Petersen wrote in his open letter to Geat and Powerful Zuck,
I’ve been following with interest your recent statements defending Facebook as an unbiased platform “for all ideas.” I hope that’s really true. However, blocking a candidate for the United States Senate for exercising support of the Second Amendment — especially when that candidate is challenging an incumbent favored by members of your board — is cause for concern and worthy of a larger conversation and a public explanation.
That’s just kooky talk. Isn’t it?