After a 30 day ban from Facebook for posts promoting an AR-15 giveaway, Republican US Senate candidate from Missouri, Austin Petersen penned an open letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg regarding what Petersen feels is a egregious offense against free speech:
Dear Mr. Zuckerberg,
My name is Austin Petersen, and I am a Republican running to represent the people of Missouri in the United States Senate. I am also a longtime Facebook user and an avid believer in Facebook’s mission: to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together. First, let me say that I fully respect the right of Facebook as a company to do as it pleases, and set terms of service that users must abide by. As a US senator, I would never call for legislation to interfere with your ability to run your company, or set guidelines on user’s behavior.
In my campaign for the United States Senate, I have made Facebook a centerpiece of my outreach efforts. I have used both my Personal Profile and my Official Page to connect with friends, family, and supporters, and to share and express our views about the future of the country.
That’s why, on September 22, I was so shocked to receive a notification from Facebook informing me that my personal account had been “blocked” from using Facebook for thirty days because I “recently posted something that violates Facebook’s policies.” Believing this to be a mistake, my campaign reached out to Facebook for more information. Today — six days later — I still have not received an explanation, and the block of my personal account remains in effect.
At the same time the block was affected, a Facebook Live video I had posted to my Official Page promoting my campaign’s AR-15 giveaway was removed. A few days later, a Status Update posted to my Profile referencing the same giveaway was also removed. I’m confident that such giveaways are consistent with Facebook’s policies — several posts promoting the giveaway, including paid “Dark Posts,” remain visible on our page — so it’s unclear to me why such content would warrant an immediate takedown and thirty-day ban.
It’s difficult to ignore that this action comes during a period of heightened tension regarding Facebook’s role in our elections, and its perceived bias against conservative voices. Moreover, the fact that your Chief Operating Officer — Sheryl Sandberg — has “leaned into” my election by donating the maximum allowable amount to my opponent does not inspire confidence in Facebook’s neutrality.
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. I hope that you, or Ms. Sandberg, are able to offer one that assuages my concerns and the concerns of the larger conservative community.
As I said, I am a longtime Facebook user and a believer in your company’s mission. Facebook’s success is a testament to the American ideal of free enterprise, and you should be proud of the business you’ve built. But if Facebook cannot truly be an unbiased, open platform that respects people with conservative views of the Constitution, that raises serious questions that must be addressed.
Thank you for taking time to hear my concerns. I look forward to having the opportunity to speak with you further.
Republican for U.S. Senate, Missouri
P.S. — If you’re reading this letter and share my concerns about bias and censorship at Facebook, please sign our petition here. Let’s urge Facebook to follow through on their promise to maintain a platform open to all ideas.