Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, in a recent interview with Axios, addressed the controversy over Twitter blocking Rep. Marsha Blackburn’s (R-TN) pro-life Senate ads due to her claim that Planned Parenthood sold “baby body parts.” Sandberg emphasized that “when you cut off speech for one person, you cut off speech for all people,” adding that Facebook would’ve allowed the ads. Twitter reversed its decision Wednesday saying it would revisit its policies.
“Marsha Blackburn runs an ad, she ran an ad which is launching her campaign for Senate and in that ad there’s a lot of positions that people don’t like, that I don’t like,” Sandberg said. “I am a staunch supporter of reproductive rights, a staunch supporter of Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood is not selling baby body parts but the question is should the, should divisive, political or issue ads run?”
Sandberg on Twitter removing an ad from Rep. Marsha Blackburn: "When you cut off speech for one person, you cut off speech for all people." pic.twitter.com/llkaIgAT1k— Axios (@axios) October 12, 2017
“Our answer is yes,” Sandberg said, “because when you cut off speech for one person, you cut off speech for all people.”
“The content’s really important,” she added, “but so are the ads because when Twitter took down the ad, they said well she can run the free content but she can’t run the ad but we all know her ability to get that message out does depend on having access to ads which is why we allow, why we allow issue-based ads even when they’re hard."
“I think the responsibility of an open platform is to let people express themselves,” she concluded. “We don’t check the information people put on Facebook before they run it and I don’t think anyone should want us to do that.”
Facebook, however, does not have the most sterling record on free speech. In May 2016, a former employee claimed that the social media site suppresses conservative news sources and promotes liberal ones in its “trending” section. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerburg met with conservative groups in an effort to address their concerns.
In her Twitter ad, Blackburn referenced Planned Parenthood’s alleged sale of baby body parts in speaking of her time as chair of the Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives. The panel was created following the release of undercover videos by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) in summer of 2015 that appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the harvesting of unborn baby parts for profit. When the videos were initially released in 2015, even Hillary Clinton called the footage “disturbing.”
Twitter announced Tuesday that they would allow Blackburn’s ad saying, “While we initially determined that a small portion of the video used potentially inflammatory language, after reconsidering the ad in the context of the entire message, we believe that there is room to refine our policies around these issues.”
In addition to complaints of censorship from pro-life groups, Twitter came under fire Thursday for temporarily suspending the account of actress Rose McGowan after she tweeted extensively about those protecting Harvey Weinstein, her own experience with sexual harassment, and Hollywood’s problem of protecting sexual predators.