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Facebook threatens to shut down conservative pages

Empower Wisconsin | Dec. 9,  2019

By M.D. Kittle

MADISON — Conservative talk show host Vicki McKenna makes her living thanks to the First Amendment.

Now Facebook is threatening to silence her.

On her radio show Thursday on NewsTalk 1130 WISN, McKenna said the social network giant froze her professional Facebook page and threatened to unpublish it — all because she named the alleged federal whistleblower  — Eric Ciaramella — behind House Democrats’ drive to impeach President Donald Trump.

The career CIA analyst’s name has been widely reported in media outlets, even impeachment documents, but mainstream news organizations have decided not to publish it.

McKenna included the controversial whistleblower’s name in headlines on her Facebook page, which she uses to promote her shows in Madison and Milwaukee and as an aggregate conservative news destination.

“It says I have coordinated harm and promoted crime,” McKenna said of Facebook’s message. She said the page has been in operation since 2009.

“I didn’t post this guy’s name and say, ‘Go get him.’ I didn’t put up a post with his name and even mock him,” said McKenna, who also is a featured columnist for Empower Wisconsin.

Doesn’t matter. Facebook, on its way to becoming the largest media company on the planet, is the final arbiter. And McKenna said users have no real recourse with the monolithic social network.

“Any mention of the potential whistleblower’s name violates our coordinating harm policy, which prohibits content outing a witness, informant, or activist,” the company said in a statement last month.

Conservative news site Breitbart originally reported that Facebook blocked users who attempted to open articles with Ciaramella identified in them. Breitbart, like McKenna’s Facebook page, was at “risk of being unpublished.”

Of course, there were no such protections for a 16-year-old kid at a March for Life rally earlier this year. Nick Sandmann, a student at Covington Catholic High School, was wrongly accused by mainstream media outlets for confronting and disrespecting a Native American protester who was playing a drum and chanting at an Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. on the same day. Sandmann, it should be noted, was wearing a Make America Great Again hat.

McKenna said she reached out to the office of U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh). After a little investigation, a Johnson aide found that thousands upon thousands of Facebook users had encountered similar threats and interventions, McKenna said.

“What do you do when the second or third most powerful media company on the planet decides you are going to be de-platformed and cease to exist,” McKenna said.

In its statement, Facebook said it was removing “any and all” mentions of the “potential whistleblower’s name.” The company added it would revisit its decision “should their name be widely published in the media or used by public figures in debate.”

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