Last week, Twitter garnered outrage when it was accused of instituting a "shadow ban" of conservatives using the popular social media website.
A "shadow ban" involves blocking a website account such that the account's content is not readily available to others on a website. The user is unaware that their content is blocked.
For their part, Twitter released a statement last Thursday denying that they had shadow banned conservatives or Republicans, explaining that they "rank tweets and search results" in order to make the site "immediately relevant." They also seek to "address bad-faith actors who intend to manipulate or detract from healthy conversation."
"[On Wednesday], we identified an issue where some accounts weren't auto-suggested in search even when people were searching for their specific name. To be clear, this only impacted our search auto-suggestions," stated Twitter.
"The accounts, their tweets and surrounding conversation about those accounts were showing up in search results. As of [Wednesday] afternoon, this issue was resolved."
In recent years, Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube have been accused of censoring or otherwise harassing conservative groups and individuals who use their sites.
Such concerns were even mentioned on Capitol Hill. In April, Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas grilled Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg about the issue during a meeting of the Senate committees on Commerce and Judiciary.
"Mr. Zuckerberg, I will say there are a great many Americans who I think are deeply concerned that that Facebook and other tech companies are engaged in a pervasive pattern of bias and political censorship," stated Cruz.
Zuckerberg responded that he understood those concerns, acknowledging that the information technology industry of Silicon Valley "is an extremely left-leaning place."
"This is actually a concern that I have and that I try to root out in the company, is making sure that we do not have any bias in the work that we do, and I think it is a fair concern that people would at least wonder about," replied Zuckerberg.
Here are seven times when social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube appeared to censor conservative groups due to ideological bias.
A Pastor Critical of the Pride Rainbow on Facebook
In July 2017, Pastor Rich Penkoski, who oversaw the popular "Warriors for Christ" Facebook Page, had his personal account suspended for posting a live video sermon criticizing the Pride rainbow.
In an interview with The Christian Post last year, Penkoski explained that his account was suspended as he was "doing a live sermon."
"I was preaching about how the pride rainbow could be the mark of the beast and how Mark Zuckerburg wanted to have Facebook replace the church," recalled Penkoski.
"Within 1 minute I was kicked off my live video and had to log back in. I received a notice that my live video was removed for violating Facebook Terms of Service."
Penkoski also told CP last summer that "I get banned all the time," including for "calling an atheist a liar" and "showing photos of Quranic verses about killing infidels."
Several Catholic Pages on Facebook
In July 2017, Facebook blocked nearly two dozen Roman Catholic pages that had millions of followers without an official explanation.
Most of the Catholic pages were based in Brazil, with a few that were English-speaking. One page, called "Jesus and Mary," had approximately 1.7 million followers. Another, called "Catholic and Proud," had about 6 million.
"Let's hope people of faith stand alongside the Catholics as they try to persuade Mark Zuckerberg to reinstate their pages," commented conservative pundit Todd Starnes at the time. "... because one day — Facebook might shut down the Baptist pages or the Lutheran pages."
Soon after, Facebook reinstated the Catholic pages, saying in a statement that they were removed when their spam detection system was "triggered accidentally."
Activist Mommy Accounts on Twitter, Facebook
In Aug. 2017, conservative activist Grace Elizabeth Johnston, commonly known as the "Activist Mommy," had her Twitter account suspended after she criticized a Teen Vogue editor who approved of publishing an article that encouraged youth to have anal sex.
In a tweet posted Aug. 16 of last year, Johnston sarcastically congratulated Teen Vogue digital editor Philip Bicardi for getting an award from a gay magazine for his promotion of anal sex among children.
According to Twitter, Johnston's account was suspended because the tweet violated its user "rules," which forbid harassment and abuse.
"Of course, actual videos of children being abused can be found on Twitter. But calling out an editor for promoting teen sodomy is worth a suspension?" posted Johnston on her website in response.
This is not the only time Johnston has had to deal with social troubles, for in Feb. 2017, Facebook froze her account for several days because of comments she had made about homosexuality.
"It would be one thing if Facebook said, 'We're liberals. This is our page and we can do whatever we want. It's our property.' I would appreciate that at least they were being honest and transparent," said Johnston to The Christian Post at the time.
"But no, they lie and say 'we're unbiased.' But when Christians report nudity or pictures of Donald Trump assassinated with a bullet through his head, we get responses that say, 'This does not violate Facebook's community guidelines' and the post remains.'"
By contrast, when January Johnston complained about a Facebook group threatening to burn her alive, the social media site replied to her that the group did not violate their standards.
Pro-Life Ad by Marsha Blackburn on Twitter
In Oct. 2017, Twitter censored an ad by Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee that denounced Planned Parenthood.
The 3-minute long video ad featured Rep. Blackburn announcing her campaign for the Senate, noting she was "100 percent pro-life" and that she "fought Planned Parenthood and we stopped the sale of baby body parts — Thank God."
Blackburn's comment was in reference to her leading of a select House committee that investigated Planned Parenthood after pro-life activists released a widely seen series of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood executives discussing illegally profiting off of the sale of aborted fetal parts.
Soon after their decision was made public and received much backlash, Twitter announced that they were changing course and allowing the ad on their platforms.
"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," explained a Twitter spokesperson to the website Recode.
Pro-Life Film Ads on Facebook
In January, Facebook initially censored paid ads by Alveda King for her pro-life movie about the controversial landmark United States Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.
A prominent conservative pro-life activist and niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Alveda protested the decision by Facebook, calling it "another violation of religious freedom" and "very discriminatory."
"They do not want the message of the injustice of abortion broadcast and they are trying to block that," said King at the time to Family Research Council President Tony Perkins in an interview.
Soon after the protest, however, Facebook agreed to lift the ban, explaining in an email sent to The Christian Post earlier this year that the ads were taken down in error.
Ads for Interview With Transgender Movement Critic on Twitter
In February, Twitter initially rejected an ad by the Christian radio station Issues, Etc. promoting an interview they had with conservative author Ryan T. Anderson.
Anderson's book When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment had just been published.
However, when the station wanted to promote the interview with a paid tweet, Twitter rejected the ad, claiming that their proposal contained "hateful content."
About a week after rejecting the ad, however, Twitter changed its decision and allowed for the ad promoting the interview to run on the social media site.
PragerU YouTube Video on Planned Parenthood
In February, YouTube restricted access to a video posted by the conservative nonprofit PragerU featuring pro-life activist Lila Rose criticizing Planned Parenthood.
Titled "What You Need to Know about Planned Parenthood," the video was restricted within hours of being uploaded, making it harder for it to be viewed by people with certain privacy settings.
For its part, PragerU had already filed a lawsuit against YouTube in Oct. 2017, charging the social media site with using "vague, overbroad, and subjective criteria" to censor conservatives.