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Sticky Tech: GOP Puts Social Media on the Spot

Tony Perkins · Apr. 12, 2019

These days, censorship can be a full-time business — just ask Twitter. Wednesday, Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) did, holding a special hearing in a Judiciary subcommittee about the pattern of social media bias. And not a moment too soon, based on what’s happening to pro-lifers. For people like Tennessee’s Marsha Blackburn (R) or the makers of Unplanned, the question isn’t whether there’s discrimination, but how much there is.

Senator Cruz gave a nod to that in his opening remarks, pointing out that it’s no longer a problem Americans can just ignore. “A great many people agree that the pattern — the anti-conservative bias and the pattern of censorship we’re seeing from big tech — is disturbing.” And that’s a problem, he went on, because “by almost any measure, the giant tech companies today are larger and more powerful than Standard Oil was when it was broken up [in 1911]. They are larger and more powerful than AT&T when it was broken up [in 1982]. And if we have tech companies using the power of monopoly to sanction political speech, I think that raises real anti-trust issues.”

The star witnesses, Twitter Director of Public Policy and Philanthropy Carlos Monje Jr. and Facebook Public Policy Director Neil Potts, for their parts, did acknowledge some of the company’s past mistakes. At one point, Monje even apologized to Senator Blackburn for barring one of her campaign ads that targeted Planned Parenthood’s baby body parts ring. “We made the wrong call,” he said. “We develop policies governing advertisements that run on Twitter that try to balance allowing our advertisers to promote messages with protecting individuals who did not ask to see that ad. I am sorry.”

At other points, the Twitter rep stumbled through an answer about the new movie about Abby Johnson — Unplanned — whose account mysteriously vanished after shattering expectations at the box office. “The individual who started the @UnplannedMovie account had previously been suspended for breaking our rules and as a result, our automated systems flagged that account and it was taken down for an hour.” That’s interesting, Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) jumped in, since Twitter usually blames algorithms or other computer-driven formulas for these mistakes.

“You say now, you’ve admitted that there is human involvement in these decisions, that there are, in fact, numerous people involved, there are protocols, but you won’t make them public, is that right?” Hawley asked. That’s when Monje got annoyed, firing back that he’d explained why Unplanned and a handful of others were targeted. “If you want more details, you can ask [them],” he argued. Well, Hawley pointed out, “You say you’re a pro-transparency company.” Prove it, he suggested. “Release your protocols. Make them public.” Monje shifted uncomfortably and responded that “Our team will get back to you soon.”

At one point, in the questioning of Potts, Cruz tried to smoke out the company’s liberal leanings by asking, “Does Facebook consider the statement that there are two genders to be hate speech?” Potts seemed confused and said “depend[ed] on how that was shared.” “I would have to find out,” he said to the amazement of Ted Cruz and the millions of other Americans who’ve been operating by the scientific reality of two genders for several millennia. “I asked Facebook in writing if some of the views [about marriage] if they are deemed hate speech and Facebook refused to answer.”

Unlike Twitter, though, Facebook is at least allowing the Senate to independently review their practices and systems — something Monje wouldn’t agree to. “[That] shows that you’re anything but transparent,” Hawley argued, “and you apparently have no interest in becoming transparent. This is a huge, huge problem, and I would hope for the sake of the customers you serve and the values you purport to represent, that you would change your behavior and to change your commitments to providing a neutral, unbiased platform for all users in this country.”

Apple, meanwhile, wasn’t part of the hearing, but its double standard continues to astound. Over in China, Tim Cook’s company has essentially become an arm of the communist state, agreeing to blacklist songs and other content that mentions “democracy” or other human rights violations. This is a tech giant, who insists it can’t partner with states that believe in religious liberty — but who is apparently perfectly fine covering up a regime’s nightmarish record on human rights — including horrible crimes against the LGBT community it claims to support.

At the end of the day, what most Americans want is neutrality — or at least consistency. If companies like Twitter hold themselves out as a virtual public square, then they can’t kick people out just because they disagree with their political or moral views. There’s this growing concern that Big Tech is picking and choosing who can speak on their platforms — which might help explain why there’s been a jump in the number of Americans who want to see more government regulation. And in the end, that isn’t the best answer. Responsible ownership is.

Originally published here.

In Most States, Life Fits the Bill

It was the bill that launched a thousand bills. Not quite, but when New York gave the green light to killing living, breathing babies, something in the American conscience shifted. Almost overnight, a bonfire of pro-life bills started spreading from one state to another — until pretty soon, the movement Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) started suddenly had a powerful and motivated army of opposition.

And conservatives aren’t the only ones who know it. Liberals, who probably thought they were kicking off a new age of abortion extremism, have been stunned by the ferocity of the backlash. According to the Guttmacher Institute, an astounding 250 pro-life bills have been introduced in 41 states — just since the start of 2019! “Almost 50 percent of those bills would ban abortion in ‘some or all circumstances,’” Life News reports. In fact, by Parenthood’s count, “legislators in seven states have proposed bills that would completely ban abortion, while six states are considering or have passed ‘trigger bans’ that would ban abortion if or when Roe v. Wade is repealed.”

Now, with Democrats in Washington putting cats and dogs above children, pro-lifers in the states are even more motivated. While Congress may have trouble banning abortion when science says babies can feel pain — 20 weeks — other leaders, like Ohio’s, are taking an even more cautious approach. In the Buckeye State, pro-lifers are celebrating the passage of a measure at an earlier limit — when the baby’s heartbeat is detected. While liberals kick and scream that these are just “clusters of cells” the reality is that most Americans (75 percent!) want to keep abortion legal only in the first trimester.

Down in North Carolina, pro-life bills are so plentiful, they’re almost a cottage industry for the Tarheels, who are cranking out one proposal after another. Our friends at the North Carolina Family Policy Council are asking for help with as many as four bills in the pipeline:

  • SB 359 & HB 602 will protect the lives of newborn babies who are born alive after a failed abortion;
  • SB 547 & HB 603 will ban abortion in North Carolina after an unborn child is able to feel pain;
  • SB 51 & HB 54 will ban dismemberment abortions in North Carolina;
  • SB 52 & HB 53 will help inform women that it is possible to reverse the abortion process after taking abortion-inducing drugs.

Out in Montana and Texas, the Born-Alive protections Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) chamber won’t pass to save abortion survivors like Gianna Jessen are moving full-steam ahead in Big Sky Country, where SB 354 sailed out of a House committee 11-8. One more vote and this important bill will be headed for the governor, Democrat Steve Bullock, who hasn’t given any indication what he’d do. (If you live in Montana, you can help him decide!) Jessen, who testified in support of the Lone Star version, said she was proud “to stand with the people of Texas to defend children like myself born after a failed abortion. It is my honor to speak for them and defend them with the heart of a mother.

There, supporters of HB 16 had a message for the radical Left: “If it’s one life, one life out of a million, it’s worth saving,” said state Sen. Lois Kolkhorst (R). Now, thanks to leaders like her, the legislation is one step closer to a trip to Governor Greg Abbott’s (R) desk. At Monday’s House hearing, more than 200 people signed up to speak — a trend that’s continued through almost every state abortion debate. Although some of them had to wait almost 11 hours for their turn, none of them seemed to mind. The chance to weigh in on the life of an innocent child was more than worth the time.

If your state isn’t debating new pro-life protections, your federal leaders are. Send a message to Speaker Pelosi that every child deserves to be welcomed into the world and protected by law. Join our End Birth Day Abortion campaign today!

Originally published here.

They Will Make You Pay: An Illinois Case Study

If there’s one thing the far Left has excelled at, it’s making you pay for their radical policies, whether or not they have the money for it. In Illinois, a state known for its persistent fiscal troubles, the department of Healthcare and Family Services recently announced their intention to begin covering gender reassignment surgeries under the state’s Medicaid program. In a press release, Governor J.B. Pritzker (D) claimed that the new policy is “cost effective, helps avoid long term health consequences, and most importantly is the right thing to do.” The department has yet to finalize the new policy. After a public comment period, the agency expects the new policy to be in place this summer. The announcement claims the new policy will allow individuals 21 years and older, with a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, to access tax-payer-funded surgery in an attempt to change a person’s gender.

Gender dysphoria is a real mental health illness. Anyone struggling with gender dysphoria ought to seek counseling to help them get at the root of their mental health struggles, and hopefully find peace with their God-given bodies. What’s not clear is how invasive, irreversible, cosmetic surgery on individual’s genitalia and breasts can help someone struggling with a mental health illness like gender dysphoria from avoiding the sort of long-term health consequences Pritzker mentioned.

According to a 2016 study by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), which analyzed 33 studies between 1979 and 2015 related to the question of whether gender reassignment surgery is medically necessary: “…there is not enough high quality evidence to determine whether gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries with gender dysphoria and whether patients most likely to benefit from these types of surgical intervention can be identified prospectively.” Apparently, Pritzker knows something the experts at CMS, and their exhaustive study on this topic don’t.

Sadly, this trend of using taxpayer dollars to pay for medically unnecessary procedures is par for the course in Illinois. In September 2017, former Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (R) signed a bill that allows abortion coverage through the state Medicaid program. The passage of this law was celebrated by the likes of Planned Parenthood and the ACLU. At the time, the state was working through budget shortfalls, yet decided to go through with legislation that could lead to $30 million in new taxpayer funding for abortion. Not only did this new law bring economic consequences, but it also forces Illinois taxpayers to subsidize the killing of innocent children.

Make no mistake, this is not just an Illinois problem. It’s the modus operandi of the Left. When they can’t pay for their radical policies, they won’t leave it — or you — alone. That’s why elections matter. That’s why those of us who truly care about properly treating mental health and who care about the unborn need to stay vigilant in our states.

Originally published here.

This is a publication of the Family Research Council. Mr. Perkins is president of FRC.

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