Republican lawmakers seem very worried about Facebook’s apparent censoring of religious and conservative content. And they racked up the likes — on Facebook, ironically enough — posting about how they voiced those concerns.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg just spent two full days testifying on the Hill, responding, mostly, to questions about how he and his company protect the data of the site's 2.2 billion users in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica scandal. But conservatives wanted to know something else: What happened to Diamond and Silk, Trump’s self-proclaimed “most outspoken and loyal supporters”? The internet-famous sisters — named Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richard — said Facebook told them their content was “unsafe” last week after the platform began limiting their ability to post videos and notify their more than 1.5 million followers of new content back in September.
The duo has peddled fake news and conspiracy theories like Uranium One, which Facebook has repeatedly said its trying to stop. During Zuckerberg’s hearings this week, however, several Republicans used Diamond and Silk’s experience as evidence of a political bias against Trump-supporting, conservative, or religious voices on the platform he runs. And for some of those lawmakers, posting about the pair of social media stars on Facebook did pretty well.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican from Tennessee, for example, posted “Diamond And Silk, we have your back” — complete with a link to a news article about her questions for Zuck, where she told him, “Diamond and Silk is not terrorism.” The post had over 400 reactions as of Thursday morning.
Blackburn also later posted, “We were there to defend you today, Diamond and Silk. So you guys keep it up!”
For Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, Chik-fil-A and Diamond and Silk have something in common: censorship on Facebook. “To a great many Americans that appears to be a pervasive pattern of political bias,” he told Zuckerberg on Tuesday. Cruz posted that same quote on Facebook, and commenters praised him.
“Thank you for standing up for Diamond and Silk and the rest of us,” wrote one commenter. “We love Diamond and Silk — don't understand why he would (or his team, as he kept referring to) go after them!” wrote another.
Sen. Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, isn’t even part of either of the committees that Zuckerberg testified to. But he chose to use his time during a separate hearing on Tuesday to defend Diamond and Silk as well.
“Russians trying to influence our elections? Kick them off. Racists or others trying to incite violence and hate? Goodbye forever. But @Diamond And Silk? Two black women sharing their conservative views? They are hardly ‘unsafe to the community,’” he wrote on the video of his remarks that he posted to Facebook.
The post had nearly 400,000 views as of Thursday morning. Diamond and Silk shared the post on their profile as well.
It’s not clear, however, that the bias these lawmakers asked about exists. Russian ads that ran during the election targeted a gamut of political viewpoints: NRA supporters, lock-her-uppers, and even religious minorities — all largely in favor of Trump. White nationalist groups and "think-tanks" also continue to exist on Facebook, including Richard Spencer's National Policy Institute. Facebook did, however, clamp down on news publishers, both conservative and otherwise, in January by announcing a new algorithm for its newsfeed to give users a more personal experience.
Still, Zuck apologized to House lawmakers about Diamond and Silk on Wednesday and said his moderators had made a mistake. “In that specific case, our team made an enforcement error and we have already gotten in touch with them to reverse it,” he said. Just a day later, Diamond and Silk tweeted that Facebook had contacted them.
Cover image: The YouTube stars known as "Diamond & Silk" appear with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump at his "Rally to Benefit Veterans" in Des Moines, Iowa January 28, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking