NSSF: Time to Confront the Tyranny of Social Media Censorship

By Larry Keane

It’s time the little bluebirds of Twitter come home to roost. While we’re at it, clean out the henhouse of Facebook, Instagram, Google and the other plucky tech giants.

The Trump administration is laying the groundwork to fence them all in for their blatant discrimination. It’s about time. Where’s the “hell-yes” emoji?

Under consideration is the creation of a White House commission to explore allegations of anticonservative bias by social media businesses. Interestingly, it’s coming from the most prolific Twitter user to occupy the White House. It’s also not the first time President Donald Trump’s torched social media platforms, according to The Hill, which reported the president tweeted in 2019 the tech giants engage in, “tremendous dishonesty, bias, discrimination and suppression practiced by certain companies. We will not let them get away with it much longer.”

Vice President Mike Pence told Breitbart, “Well, the president has made it very clear that we are not going to tolerate censorship on the Internet and social media against conservatives. We’re just not going to tolerate it.”

The pressure is building. News broke last year that the Justice Department was investigating unspecified online platforms to consider concerns raised about “search, social media and some retail services online.” Independently, 47 state attorneys general are probing Facebook for antitrust violations.

The firearm and ammunition industry has more than a few instances of documented antigun bias by social media companies. There’s a love-hate relationship with the social media platforms. They’ve become so ubiquitous that it’s nearly impossible to reach customers without them. NSSF has argued they’ve become the virtual public square, where people from every walk of life can not only see pictures and video of friends and family, but express ideas, debate topics and participate in civic discourse. That is, of course, if they’re allowed.

Community Standards

Jessica Keffer, the marketing manager for the Sportsman’s Shop in East Earl, Pa., went on Fox and Friends to describe the discrimination her business faced from Facebook. She was booted for advertising on Facebook over American flags. Keffer’s ad wasn’t about gun sales, but with her attempt to boost an “Honor the Flag” promotion. The ad was approved and then rejected. The reason given was, “It’s because you have a link to your website on your page which does sell firearms. That’s also against our policies I’m afraid.”

The ad had nothing to do with selling guns and while the Sportsman’s Shop sells guns, all sales are completed in a face-to-face transaction, and with a background check, in accordance with federal and state laws.

Keffer was pointed to Facebook’s Prohibited Content section, a part of the social media giants Ad Policies. “Ads must not promote the sale or use of weapons, ammunition, or explosives,” one of the subsections reads. But Keffer’s ad was about flags, not guns. The Daily Caller dug deeper and Facebook told them since the page links back to the shop’s website, which advertises guns, they canned the ad.

Google It

It wasn’t just Mark Zuckerburg’s baby. Tech giant Google assigns a “Family Status” to every product in the Google Shopping function. In 2012, Google moved firearm-related content to the same “non family safe” category as adult content. The bias didn’t end there.

Google discriminated against Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, a conservation organization that is dedicated to putting millions of acres into perpetual trusts and conservation lands and restoring wild elk populations across America. RMEF wanted to promote an eight-minute video about the benefits of hunting to conservation. Google labeled it “animal cruelty.”

It didn’t get turned around until U.S. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) and U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-Mont.) sent a letter to Google’s CEO demanding answers.

It wasn’t the first time, either. Google owns YouTube, which shut down Brownells’ channel without warming in 2018. Brownells’ 69,000 subscribers, and the company, were left in the dark. Brownells issued a social media call-to-arms and their customers responded and YouTube restored the channel.  The whole dustup was for supposed “violating YouTube Community Guidelines.” Even founder of Ars Techica and former Wired editor Jon Stokes scratching his head. He’s plugged into all things in the tech world and he couldn’t make the connection to any community standard that would have possibly posed a hazard.

Stokes tweeted, “I gotta say something else about this. Brownells is like the stodgiest, old-schoolest, non-tactical, non- ‘assault rifle’, old-hunting-guy brand in the gun world. When your platform has summarily executed Brownells, you’ve just gone too far.”

Infringing Rights

These tech giants, for years, have been infringing First Amendment rights to quash Second Amendment rights. Buying and selling guns is a constitutionally-protected right. A three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said as much in their ruling on Teixeira vs. Alameda County that reads “the right to purchase and sell firearms is part and parcel of the historically recognized right to keep and bear arms.”

Social media corporations have been suppressing the firearm industry, gun ownership, firearm safety and anything that could be related to guns in the name of “community standards” and what they determine to be in the best interests of Americans. That right doesn’t belong to virtual overlords. That free exchange of ideas belongs to the people.

It’s time the bluebirds came home to roost.

Larry Keane is Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs and General Counsel for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the firearms industry trade association.

***Buy and Sell on GunsAmerica! All Local Sales are FREE!***

{ 28 comments… add one }
  • Chris June 2, 2020, 1:28 am

    Every private company is still governed by rules and ethics. People who say stuff about them being private and how the government should stay out of it are the same ones saying the government should force private companies to not discriminate, not to ask potential employees if they have a criminal record, etc.

    I’m not saying they shouldn’t, I’m merely pointing out the double standard.

    If you truly believe this then private companies should be able to hire whomever they want regardless of race, age, or gender and pay them whatever they want, regardless of race, age, or gender… and really should not have to be subject to the government at all.

    Forget paying taxes. Forget equality. Do whatever makes them the most money, right? Otherwise the government is just “seizing control” of private companies.

    They still have to be held accountable for breaking laws.

    I’m sick of this garbage. I’m so sick of the double standard. F**k social media and their bias liberal agenda.

    Oh, and Trump isn’t a customer of Twitter you dumb a**. He’s not buying anything from them.

    • Brian June 6, 2020, 3:16 am

      I agree that they should refrain from censorship and the like, but at the end of the day they are a private company. I’m more concerned about a government exercising undue influence of what can and cannot be said on a privately-owned publication forum than I am about a liberal private company limiting its services.

  • DNFU June 1, 2020, 2:19 am

    Censorship has become the de facto position of many companies, not just Big Tech.

    They don’t like your religion, then you can not advertise it. Simply adding the word Christian to an ad will get in banned in some places now, where as other religions can advertise freely. 1st Amendment violation.

    They don’t like guns, then you can not even show how to videos on repairing, or proper use of them. This was attempted and has so far failed, thankfully, due to public outrage and pushback. But other methods of interference are happening. 1st and 2nd Amendment violations.

    They don’t want you to see certain content, which is on a pay site, so they block your being able to pay for it. PayPal will not allow payments for some items for instance. I have seen VISA block payment for services they don’t support as well. Either you are a payment processor or you are not, which is going to be? This is another place where the corporations are censoring our civil liberties. Both 1st and 2nd Amendment violations.

    And the list goes on.

  • sfvshooter May 29, 2020, 2:44 pm

    The moron in the WH brought this onto himself. You can’t claim alternative truths and then get mad when people push back.

    There was a time when Republicans were the grown ups in the room. Reagan must be rolling over in his grave.

    • Kelly May 30, 2020, 9:34 pm

      The push-back you reference should only consist of posts disagreeing with the president’s own posts. Censorship–be it hard or soft–is not push-back that he or anyone else should have to endure on something that is supposed to be a neutral platform. The push-back you reference, in the form of censorship, is only acceptable to authoritarian regimes.

      Based on your logic, our own statements in favor of the Second Amendment could be considered alternative truths and be subject to what you seem to consider “justifiable” censorship. Justifying censorship by classifying opposing viewpoints as “alternate truths” is exactly what authoritarian regimes do. Maybe you are a fan of Chinese Communist speech control, but that philosophy directly contradicts our American approach to the marketplace of ideas.

      By the way, Trump’s demeanor has nothing to do with the appropriateness (or lack thereof) of Twitter’s treatment of his posts. That has absolutely no bearing on this discussion.

      • Chris June 2, 2020, 1:30 am

        Kelly, well said! Thank you

  • Tom May 29, 2020, 12:12 pm

    Twitter gives FULL UNFETTERED UNCENSORED access to muslim terrorists but not to political conservative entities or people who do not agree with their agenda. I dont do either twitter or facebook.

  • Steven May 29, 2020, 12:01 pm

    Too many assholes have a place to express opinions that should be kept to themselves. The world would be a better place without social(ist) media.

  • Crumbacker Bernie May 29, 2020, 11:39 am

    I agree with your article and cannot stress or emphasize enough to my fellow citizens- suppression of the 1st Amendment will not come from government. It should be greatly disturbing to ALL AMERICANS that half of our government representatives and ALL of mass media are anti-1st and anti-2nd amendment.
    We have seen the suppression of religion and censorship of opinion by Liberal politicians and these GARGANTUAN left leaning media platforms for years.
    Folks, if our 2nd amend fails, and the big media companies are allowed to smash the 1st amend, the United States of America’s will be no more. These groups know this. The rest of us need to understand their end-goal: “fundamental change” of our beautiful country.
    Yes, the USA has issues that need to be repaired but she is still the brightest and most free country God ever gave to mankind.

  • George Arming May 29, 2020, 11:24 am

    Here’s a thought.

    The President and anyone else who doesn’t like what Twitter, Google, Facebook or any other PRIVATE business is doing simply can stop using it. That’s what capitalism is all about. Don’t like the service? Take your business elsewhere.

    It’s amusing that staunch “anti-regulation” conservatives want to impose regulations.

    • David Cottrell May 29, 2020, 6:01 pm

      This type of censorship from a private company amounts to curation of content. When they become curators, they must abide by a different set of rules that are already in place. They can’t have it both ways. Either open it up, or be curators and accept the regulation. But somehow, they need to be forced to make a choice.

    • Kelly May 30, 2020, 9:20 pm

      The president is not regulating social media, and conservatives aren’t advocating for regulations on social media. They are working to remove protections that shield these platforms from legal responsibility for certain content that might appear on their pages.

      The Section 230 protections were designed to allow these social media sites to be platforms, rather than publishers, meaning that they could not be held liable for content because they only hosted it, rather than editing or curating it.

      When these platforms censor content or place their own opinions about what is posted, they become publishers. If they act like publishers, then they will be treated like publishers.

      This is not regulation. It is removal of a previous protection they enjoyed when they were actually mere platforms.

  • dave brown May 29, 2020, 11:12 am

    Time for Trump To Tell The Truth for a change. Time for The Chump to be a Human Bean. Time for those that make a living our of being Way Of Base to try to find The Center in order to see what is best for All Of USA. I don’t much care about social media, and I think Trump should Shut Em Down Yesterday! Cousred he and many of this Clowns will have WithDrawals as they need this platform to try to convince the Most of Us that they ain’t Lying just to have Power or to fell like they Belong. Time to Free Your Mind. Be Party Blind. Be a leader instead of being in Lock Step with any party.

  • john May 29, 2020, 10:41 am

    When 3 times in 1 week you accuse a media guy you don’t like,{I don’t either}, of murder when you and almost everyone knows it’s not true. When you, your staff, and your press secretary,{11 times}, use mail ins ,how can you say the rest of us can’t. There is literally no evidence to support the accusation. In America truth matters and if you lie you should be called. Don’t tell me I’m some left leaning wingnut. Whats right for one is right for all. If you want to lie put your stuff in the national enquirer.

    • Mobilemechman Tim May 29, 2020, 12:25 pm

      You sir, must be some left-leaning wingnut.

    • Waltzin Matilda May 29, 2020, 1:43 pm

      A fascist left wing weirdo.

      I’ve noticed that all the wingnuts, these days, seem to have left hand threads.

      Waltzin Matilda

  • wade May 29, 2020, 9:57 am

    The president should have shown the proof that there has been major fraud with mail in ballots when Twitter flagged his Tweet regarding the fraud, that would have shown them. The problem is there is not proof of a major voter fraud issue, there was a case of mail in voter fraud in a recent election in North Carolina when an organizer collected peoples mail in ballots, and filled them out which is a violation of law. The person who collected the ballots was a republican.

    Just because the president says something is true does not make it so, nor is he a king. There are many statements and Tweets made by our leader that have been at best questionable at worse an out and out lie.

  • Andrew Klain May 29, 2020, 9:40 am

    As ex-military , I took an oath to defend and protect the constitution. I am a staunch defender of the second amendment, and have mostly been a one issue voter. Whoever supports the 2nd amendment gets my vote. Of course, other issues matter , too. Conservatives get it ! Disarming the law abiding gun owners puts us all at risk at the hands of criminals who don’t give one damn about any existing or new gun laws . There are so many laws now , and the illegal gun trade is flourishing. We need to defend ourselves and our families. I have no problem with good, effective background checks, mental health checks, no straw purchases , as long as we can still purchase and own ,and practice with legally acquired firearms. I do have a problem with laws that favor eliminating due process , and censoring conservative dialog. The left claims they want to be all inclusive , all equal, but in reality they are the opposite. They shout down and obstruct almost all conservative viewpoints in many , many venues. Their bias is blatant ! The anti first amendment movement in this country is evident and pushed by leftist organizations and leaders, such as governors.. That said, I do wish that President Trump would curtail his use of Twitter as a platform to address the public. I have learned , and my daughters have learned, that no matter how much you try to get your message across, it gets crushed with ugly diatribes and comes to no avail. Just make sure to vote for the defenders of the constitution and our Republic.

  • Nonya May 29, 2020, 9:26 am

    Mark, you’re missing the point. These social media platforms are given broad protections as essentially a digital public square. They say in testimony they are not publishers and shouldn’t get treated as one by the government. But then when they make editorial decisions about censorship and content regulation they are behaving as a publisher. They can’t be both. You can’t be a free platform of expression and left alone by the gov, but act as a publisher when it suits their political bias.

  • Pat Bryan May 29, 2020, 8:56 am

    Neither Left nor Right: How about we just censor and expose LYING?
    Oh, that is what Trump is all goosed-off about.
    All of this dogwhistle BS is circumlocution for that.
    Trump and his buttkissers just want to avoid getting screened for LYING.
    because that is all that they do.
    And if that is not the truth, then I dare you this: Post all over social media to condemn political censorship, but encourage fact checking.
    The Right just hates fact checking.

    Gee, you would think the Right would want us to confirm that they are telling the truth.

  • Mark May 29, 2020, 8:06 am

    I am a staunch supporter or the second amendment and own more firearms than fingers and toes on my body but I have to say we need to stop backing this spoiled child running the country. Stop drinking the kool-aid or it will be the end of the Republican party as we know it. He consistently prioritizes himself over our country at every turn. The first amendment is designed so the GOVERNMENT does not impede free speach- it does not however force any PRIVATE platform to publish things they don’t want to. That’s why these companies have their terms of service. These terms allow the company to kick a user or mark a statement as false if it is blatantly false. This goes both ways my friends, think about it.

    • Zupglick May 29, 2020, 9:49 am

      Under section 290, these “platforms” are not publishers, otherwise they would have been taken to task a long time ago through liable laws.

    • Ryan May 29, 2020, 9:54 am

      Well spoken!

    • paul May 29, 2020, 10:08 am

      While it is a private entity they are govern by rules. Under their agreement with the Feds they are currently considered an open platform which can not apply editorial comment. If you put out there it’s out there. When they alter it in any way they are at that point considered to be a publisher which is then under a completely different set of rules.
      This has nothing to do with the President. You may not like him but he is merely demanding the rules governing these publishers be followed. If these they can mess with the President there’s not much left for guys like you. If they disagree they can fight it. I don’t think they lack the funds to do it.

  • Crumbacker Bernie May 29, 2020, 6:59 am

    I agree with your article and cannot stress or emphasize enough to my fellow citizens- suppression of the 1st Amendment will not come from government. It should be greatly disturbing to ALL AMERICANS that half of our government representatives and ALL of mass media are anti-1st and anti-2nd amendment.
    We have seen the suppression of religion and censorship of opinion by Liberal politicians and these GARGANTUAN left leaning media platforms for years, especially the past 3 1/2yrs, and its been highlighted during the pandemic these past 3 months.
    Folks, if our 2nd amend fails, and the big media companies are allowed to smash the 1st amend, the United States of America’s will be no more. These leftist groups and like-thinkers already know this. The rest of us need to understand their end-goal: “fundamental change” of our beautiful country.
    Yes, the USA has issues that need to be repaired but she is still the brightest and most free country God ever gave to mankind.

  • Crumbacker Bernie May 29, 2020, 6:57 am

    I agree with your article and cannot stress or emphasize enough to my fellow citizens- suppression of the 1st Amendment will not come from government. It should be greatly disturbing to ALL AMERICANS that half of our government representatives and ALL of mass media are anti-1st and anti-2nd amendment.
    We have seen the suppression of religion and censorship of opinion by Liberal politicians and these GARGANTUAN left leaning media platforms for years, especially the past 3 1/2yrs, and its been highlighted during the pandemic these past 3 months.
    Folks, if our 2nd amend fails, and the big media companies are allowed to smash the 1st amend, the United States of America’s will be no more. These leftist groups and like-thinkers already know this. The rest of us need to understand their end-goal: “fundamental change” of our beautiful country.
    Yes, the USA has issues that need to be repaired but she is still the brightest and most free country God ever gave to mankind. ( Just ask all those who are our climbing our walls just to get in)

  • William Solice May 29, 2020, 3:05 am

    Oh please, this is a private company. They have the right to refuse service to customers who abuse the service and the employees. This whole article is an argument for government to seize control of private business. Please don’t try to sell out America’s commitment to liberty and private enterprise for this failed president.

Leave a Comment

Send this to a friend