Facebook’s tendency toward political censorship accelerated swiftly this past weekend, when many pro-Second Amendment pages were banned without explanation.
“We found out we weren’t alone. Many other pro-gun pages — or pro-law enforcement pages or military pages — were unpublished over the weekend,” Tactical Sh*t owner TJ Kirgin tells National Review. In some cases, he says, even airsoft pages were included in the cull.
Tactical Sh*t is an online community for Second Amendment supporters that has over 30 million viewers per month. The company follows Facebook’s guidelines by limiting its commercial offerings to firearms accessories and extraneous gear. Yet it was banned from the site anyway.
Kirgin believes that Facebook is using an “algorithm” to ban pro-Second Amendment pages. The last time that a Tactical Sh*t post was flagged — about four months ago — he notes that it was removed and his punishment was decided in under 20 minutes. “No human being could have made that decision” so quickly, he says. “The targeting being done is most certainly algorithmic.”
Since that time, the company’s Facebook page had not been flagged again until, without any justification, it was pulled down on Sunday.
“ISIS can have posts saying ‘Death to America,’ but if you post a picture with a gun you get banned,” Kirgin says with frustration. “Your company’s livelihood gets attacked because you post a photo that even looks like a gun.”
For Kirgin, the consequences of the ban were drastic. Instantly, Tactical Sh*t saw a 40 percent decrease in sales, which resulted in a loss of thousands — or maybe even tens of thousands — in revenue. There was also a 40 percent reduction in traffic to the company’s website, which includes a media section on which reporters cover military and law-enforcement news.
“It scared the living daylights out of our staff,” Kirgin says.
After a 36-hour anti-Facebook backlash — “the noise we were able to make with our loyal following,” as Kirgin puts it — the company’s page was re-published. But the damage had already been done.
#related#Kirgin is a former law-enforcement officer and has a staff composed mostly of veterans. As a result, Tactical Sh*t donates a large portion of its revenue to veteran and law-enforcement charities such as Raider Project and Gallant Few. Without Facebook’s social-media platform, Kirgin says, it would be nearly impossible for the company to excel, and thus to donate as much as it does.
Kirgin acknowledges that Facebook is a private company and may do as it wishes. But, he argues, that doesn’t make it right. “Someone,” he says, “needs to come up with a social media that is truly American by nature by allowing freedom of speech.”
— Austin Yack is a William F. Buckley Fellow in Political Journalism at the National Review Institute.