Rep. Ken Buck calls Facebook out for censoring content

Republican Colorado Rep. Ken Buck is taking aim at Facebook, calling out the social media giant’s decision to censor certain stories — such as The Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden and content about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter sent to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, Buck charged that the website “opted to obliterate commentary on these topics from the public square in the supposed interest of public informational safety.” 

The congressman alleged that Facebook purges mostly conservative content from its platform — and urged the company to ensure that both sides of the aisle have an equal opportunity to be heard.

“Your company is only able to selectively moderate content based on the political agenda of your company and its employees because Facebook possesses monopoly power over the market,” Buck wrote to Zuckerberg.

He warned that “stifling ideas can backfire if it leads people to believe there’s a ‘real story’ that is  being suppressed.’”

While the letter noted the extensive undertaking that moderating the site’s content to combat misinformation entails, it also stated that Facebook flagged multiple stories without legitimate cause.

“During the first six months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook removed more than 7 million posts that purportedly spread misinformation about the virus, and your company placed contextual notes on more than 98 million posts it deemed as potentially misleading,” Buck wrote to Zuckerberg. “Monitoring posts across Facebook and Instagram for misinformation about COVID has been an undoubtedly herculean task, but Facebook has vigorously taken on this challenge.”

Rep. Ken Buck called out Facebook for censoring content including The Post's reporting on Hunter Biden in a letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Rep. Ken Buck called out Facebook for censoring content including The Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden in a letter to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.
Chip Somodevilla/Pool via AP

“Likewise, Facebook thoroughly eradicated the New York Post’s reporting on Hunter Biden from its platforms leading up to the 2020 presidential election on the basis that the story was potentially inaccurate,” Buck continued.

“However, in both of these situations, Facebook has had the embarrassing position of having to defend its censorship of legitimate content.”

The letter states that “much of the content Facebook censored under the pretense of combating misinformation about COVID was related to the theory that the virus could have leaked out of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.”

Congressman Buck, who represents Colorado's fourth district, urged Zuckerberg to take the steps to ensure Facebook is an open platform.
Congressman Buck, who represents Colorado’s fourth district, urged Zuckerberg to take the steps to ensure Facebook is an open platform.

“Facebook quickly eradicated this  theory from the public discourse amidst criticism – including from the propaganda arm of the  Chinese Communist Party – that the theory was racist,” Buck wrote.

He noted that “evidence has continued to  support that this theory cannot be so easily and summarily dismissed.”

“Similarly, the  unconditional erasure of reports that were damaging to then-candidate Joe Biden regarding his son, Hunter Biden, has since been proved to be unfounded,” Buck added.

The lawmaker went on to charge that Facebook has failed to to address “illegal and sexually abusive content,” and has not done enough to keep the platform being used as a tool in human trafficking.

“The company appears to have an astonishing lack of concern about illegal and  sexually abusive content that is rampantly permitted on your company’s platforms,” Buck wrote to Zuckerberg.

“Facebook has established a rigorous system for policing speech that is Constitutionally protected, yet your company’s failure to effectively screen illegal and exploitative content represents a misalignment of values that is deeply disconcerting.” 

Buck also noted Zuckerberg’s recent testimony before Congress where he discussed reforms to Section 230, the provision of the Communications Decency Act, which provides a legal shield to tech companies for content on their websites.

“Recently, you testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. In this hearing,  you advocated for vaguely defined Section 230 reforms, saying that the law should ‘condition immunity for the larger platforms on having a generally effective system in place to moderate clearly illegal types of content,’” the letter states.  

Buck said while he thinks legislative reforms on the matter are needed, he has concerns about Congress taking “counterproductive actions.”

“Simply because a company has established a system to review potentially illegal content does not create any standard for ensuring such content is systematically removed from the platform,” he wrote. “I agree with you that no system is perfect, but if Congress were to adopt your  recommendation, it would codify the status quo and fails to address the issues that are pervasive  across Facebook.” 

Buck added: “I urge you to take necessary steps to ensure your platform is an open platform for the free and open exchange of ideas and an unwelcoming place for illegal and exploitive content.”