Conservatives In Congress Asked Zuckerberg About 2 Sisters' Facebook Videos
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced an array of questions from Congress this week about the site's role in data security, hate speech and foreign interference in U.S. elections. Lawmakers struggled to make sense of the social media giant and its founder, who has become something of a Silicon Valley icon. But the real stars of the hearing may just be Diamond and Silk, two sisters from North Carolina famous for their pro-Trump videos online.
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SILK: If you are an anti-Trumper, if you are not for our president's agenda, you need to bye.
SILK: We are ready to live. We are ready to be part of the American dream. People are tired of being stuck in American nightmares.
DIAMOND: That's right. They're - that's right.
CORNISH: And the pair seems to have some fans in congressional Republicans, who questioned Zuckerberg a lot about reports that Facebook may have censored their videos.
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JOE BARTON: Why is Facebook censoring conservative bloggers such as Diamond and Silk?
TED CRUZ: Facebook has blocked Trump supporters Diamond and Silk's page after determining their content and brand were, quote, "unsafe to the community."
MARSHA BLACKBURN: Let me tell you something right now. Diamond and Silk is not terrorism.
BILLY LONG: Diamond and Silk have a question for you. And that question is, what is unsafe about two black women supporting President Donald J. Trump?
CORNISH: That's Representative Joe Barton, Senator Ted Cruz and representatives Marsha Blackburn and Billy Long at Zuckerberg's hearings this week. So why do members of Congress care so much about these two activists in particular? NPR political reporter Tim Mak is here. He watched the hearings. Hi there, Tim.
TIM MAK, BYLINE: Hey, thanks for having me.
CORNISH: So give us the background on Diamond and Silk.
MAK: So they're two women, Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson. They call themselves Donald Trump's biggest supporters. And they've got a gigantic online following - 1.4 million fans on Facebook, for example. So they make videos on YouTube. And back during the campaign they attended a lot of Trump rallies. You'll find that a lot of Trump supporters know a lot about Diamond and Silk and are religious about watching their videos. They've even been to the White House to meet with the president after the campaign was over. The president is a big fan and is actually - reportedly is constantly talking about Diamond and Silk and their hits on Fox News and their videos.
CORNISH: So what's the connection between their popularity and then ending up, you know, the focus of these hearings?
MAK: So conservatives say that Diamond and Silk, who were recently warned by Facebook that their videos may be, quote, "unsafe," that this episode, it exemplifies the unequal treatment of political speech by big tech companies. And this is a broader point I think that conservatives feel, that the right feels that it is not getting a fair shake in media amongst tech firms, amongst, you know, Hollywood executives and so on and so forth.
So because they're Trump supporters, because they're conservatives, according to this argument they get restricted by more liberal voices in positions of power. They're censored by Facebook, in their view, in terms of their ability to access their followers and push out their content. And Mark Zuckerberg actually said, hey, there might be some legitimacy to this. And they said that that notice to them that their videos might be unsafe was actually an enforcement error.
CORNISH: So how did Diamond and Silk get the attention of Facebook's reviewers?
MAK: So one theory is that it might have been because Diamond and Silk had talked about conspiracy theories. Facebook has never really explained exactly why it reached out to Diamond and Silk. But there's a big tension that Facebook has to deal with, which is on the one hand, it doesn't want to be an arbiter of political opinions. On the other hand, it does not want fake or false information on their platform.
CORNISH: That's NPR political reporter Tim Mak. Thanks for explaining.
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