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Blog: Gold Star Mom Censored by Big Tech

September 2, 2021

By Catharine Cypher

Just days after learning about the death of her son, Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, Facebook disabled the Instagram account of Gold Star Mother Shana Chappell. Chappell took to Facebook to criticize President Biden for his disrespectful actions during the August 29th Dignified Transfer of Remains at Dover Air Force Base. Not long after posting to Facebook, Chappell began receiving Instagram notifications for posts from months prior, warning her that her account would be disabled if she continued posting similar content. Soon after that, her account was suspended for sharing what Instagram called “inappropriate or disrespectful content”.

At the time of Chappell’s suspension, the Taliban Spokesperson, Zabihullah Mujahid, remained active and engaged on social media. To put this in perspective, as we near the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the very group that harbored the masterminds behind one of the most horrific attacks on American soil in the country’s history, was given a voice on social media over a Gold Star Mother.

After disabling her account, Facebook stated that the Instagram account had been removed in error and Chappell’s account had since been reinstated. This shows us that what someone says on one platform can cause a ripple effect across all social media accounts. The overreach underscores the monopolistic power that Facebook has in the 21st century town square. Which brings us to wonder, how could such an “error” be made during one of the most deadly attacks of the Afghanistan war.

Social media companies’ standard of “acceptable” speech has never been more unclear than it is today, and the American government has been complicit in First Amendment violations by continuing to support Section 230 which allows tech companies to operate with zero accountability.

Censorship can affect every American from every political stripe. But one thing is clear, when it comes to conservative voices, and those who challenge liberal leaders or political correctness, the default seems to be censor first, review later. Why is that?

Questions need to be asked. Why would social media companies give a platform to a known terrorist organization that oppresses women, LGBTQ individuals, and other minority groups, when they suspended the account of a sitting United States President? Do Facebook and Instagram’s man-made “algorithms” perceive a grieving Gold Star mother and her opinions as more of a threat than a group of known killers who chant “death to America” in their streets?

The contrasting standards of speech judged by social media giants is truly stunning and, at times, incomprehensible. There is a First Amendment crisis in our Nation’s new town square and it’s these examples of unequal application of “terms of service” standards which led President Donald Trump to take on big tech and demand accountability on behalf of the American people.

The very existence of the First Amendment is to protect Americans’ speech, specifically those who are petitioning the government. Chappell’s son paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect these beloved freedoms, it’s now our job to ensure that these freedoms are upheld at home and this Gold Star mother can freely use her voice to express her opinions – even when they oppose those of the Commander in Chief.

If you have been censored by Big Tech, share your story at TakeOnBigTech.com.

Catharine Cypher serves as Director of Strategic Communications, Constitutional Litigation Partnership and Advisor, Center for the American Child for the America First Policy Institute (AFPI).