With conservative freedom of speech under attack across social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, and Pinterest, social media giant Facebook has begun directly attacking conservative groups, individuals, and content under the guise of shielding users from false content and hate speech.
Carole Quattro Levine, founder of the Facebook-based conservative media site “Flyover Culture,” is among the latest, but not nearly the first victim of Facebook’s crackdown.
According to Levine, Facebook’s censorship arose after sites such as her own “stunned the political world in 2016” by empowering like-minded conservatives often overlooked by coastal political elites and mainstream media, and thus ushering in the Trump presidency.
“The masters of the universe,” she explained, “have placed their boots on our necks to prevent this from happening again in 2020.”
Since November 2018, Facebook has cited three of Flyover Culture’s posts for containing “false news.” Each of Facebook’s claims was supported with a demonstrably subjective rebuttal.
With Levine’s third infraction, Facebook also performed a devastating stricture of the site’s content. Flyover Culture posts that once received tens of thousands of views are now lucky to get several dozen reactions.
Understanding why her right to expression has been infringed provides Levine no solace. She works near a large canvas featuring the Gadsden Flag, issuing its constant warning: “Don’t Tread on Me.” With no recourse against Facebook, and no indication of whether her site’s sentence will be permanent or fleeting, Levine’s rights have been trodden on, indeed.
Since starting her site in 2012, Levine has cultivated a following of nearly 130,000 Facebook users who appreciate her smart, savvy, honest approach to political commentary.
Levine remains humble about her appeal. “I’m just a suburban frau in Skechers discussing issues on an even playing field with the people who follow my page,” she told me. “They know that and feel validated rather than patronized.”
For the first four years of the site’s life, Flyover Culture was left to its own devices. In November 2016, I heard the first grumblings of Levine’s struggles with Facebook from my dear friend, who happens to be Levine’s daughter.
The stories began with a steady decline in the number of views that Flyover Culture posts were receiving. At the same time, Facebook seemed to be constricting Levine’s ability to reach new people.
Outright censorship began in the lead-up to the 2018 midterm elections, when three Flyover Culture posts were removed, with no further explanation except that they “violat[ed] community standards” and contained “hate speech.”
Finally, in November 2018, Levine explained, the “Orwellian fact-checkers descended.”
For sharing the meme below, Flyover Culture was condemned for distributing false news. To explain why they contested her post’s veracity, Facebook included a link to a Snopes article debunking the meme’s assertions.
Snopes goes so far as to seek out scientific facts about the intelligence of amphibians to counter a clearly satirical claim that Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., has the “IQ of a salamander.” Far from a purely fact-checking, non-partisan body, Snopes also felt the need to add that Ocasio-Cortez is “possibly [more intelligent than] most meme makers to boot.”
The real head-scratcher is that even Snopes deems Flyover Culture’s meme a “mixture,” of “mostly subjective or unsubstantiated” information, rather than giving it a “false” label, as Facebook did.
Flyover Culture’s second warning arrived at the end of June. After 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., claimed during the Democratic presidential debates that she was “part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California public schools,” Levine shared a photograph of Berkeley’s 1963 high school yearbook, which shows that Berkeley schools were, in fact integrated before Harris’ birth in 1964.
The integration status of Berkeley’s schools, however, was complicated. In 1963, Berkeley had one public high school, which made integration there a necessity. However, the district had multiple elementary and middle schools, which were “largely split along racial lines,” according to the Washington Examiner, which cited 1963’s census, stating some schools were “as much as over 97% white and 1.7% black.”
In 1968, Berkeley began using busing to create a more “integrated school environment,” making Harris’ statement, and Levine’s post, simultaneously accurate.
Not only did Facebook attack Flyover Culture with a “false rating” over this hair-splitting discrepancy, but they supported their claim with a link to a site providing a lengthy explainer on why attacks on Harris’ ethnic origins are wrong, followed by a brief description of the integration status of Berkeley schools.
From their rebuttal, Facebook seemingly alleged Flyover Culture had attacked Harris’ ethnicity — something Levine’s post had neither mentioned, nor put into question.
Interestingly, other media figures from both sides of the political aisle had descended into a dissection of Harris’ race.
This led fellow 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., to issue the following prescient Tweet calling for media censorship by reminding “tech companies” of their “power and obligation…to stop these vile lies dead in their tracks.”
Facebook did not wait long before issuing their coup d’etat against Flyover Culture on July 10. They assigned a “false rating” to a Tweet Levine reposted, in which Charlie Kirk, of Turning Point USA, criticized supposed Obama-era changes to the census. Along with their message, Facebook sent a link to a FactCheck.org site which “debunked” Kirk’s claim.
Though Levine admitted Kirk’s quote was “arguably incomplete and politically leaning,” she states it was not false.
Moreover, she continued, Facebook is now holding Flyover Culture “responsible for the veracity of comments made by third parties.” If other media “were held to [this] standard,” Levine claimed, “they’d all be shut down completely.”
Facebook, that self-determined arbiter of “truth,” had now determined that it could shutter Flyover Culture. With its third “false rating,” Facebook delivered the news that Levine’s page would be subject to “reduced distribution” because she had “a history of sharing false news.”
Though Levine continues to post, her memes and posts now reach just a fraction of the almost 130,000 users who chose to receive her content.
Aside from Facebook’s attack on her First Amendment rights, and the blow dealt to Levine’s years spent growing and cultivating her site, the deepest insult to Flyover Culture comes in the form of the company’s double standard for content produced by sites with a liberal or anti-Trump bias.
While Flyover Culture cannot make satirical claims about Ocasio-Cortez’s intelligence, “Mrs. Betty Bowers, America’s Best Christian” was able to employ satire to suggest Donald Trump is unable to write.
With even the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum describing the “careless comparisons and simplistic equivalencies to the Holocaust” as “demean[ing]” and “offensive,” Occupy Democrats was able to post the following meme comparing Vice President Mike Pence to Heinrich Himmler. (To boot, the meme is rife with factual errors. Himmler, whose title is incorrect for the period mentioned, was not touring a “detention camp,” but rather a prisoner of war camp outside Minsk where Soviet prisoners, like the one pictured, would have suffered “brutal treatment…in violation of every standard of warfare.” Rather than demonstrating the camp was “not so bad,” on the day of his pictured visit, Himmler personally oversaw the shooting of 100 Jews.)
Occupy Democrats can also post as many memes as they like claiming that Trump’s supporters consist entirely of Confederate-flag-lovers, racists, braindead fools, and Nazis. They can, with no apparent recourse, distribute false “quotes,” suggest Trump supporters have “sold their souls to the devil,” and advocate for the public shunning and shaming of Trump voters. Their commenters, too, can celebrate with hearts, “Likes,” and laughter, the suggestion that so-called “Nazi” Stephen Miller, among others, be hung.
It is appalling that Facebook censors Flyover Culture while allowing Occupy Democrats to send out a constant stream of vile, hate-mongering ad-hominem attacks to its more than 7.8 million followers.
Flyover Culture is not alone in being silenced due to Facebook’s crackdown on conservative voices.
Last September, nearly all of PragerU’s videos were censored by Facebook, for which the company apologized.
As the Western Journal reported in October 2018, Facebook took down “559 political pages and 251 accounts” due to “inauthentic behavior” leading up to midterm elections. Facebook originally declined to address the political leanings of the affected pages, but a spokesperson eventually admitted “the takedowns may have impacted more right-leaning hyper-partisan pages.” Though Facebook would not share which pages it removed, the Western Journal was able to discover 220 impacted pages, and found that, among them, “67 percent are conservative or pro-Trump pages, 22 percent are libertarian or non-aligned, and 11 percent are liberal or anti-Trump pages.“
Among the affected in October was Happy Hayride, whose owner has routinely been subject to temporary bans over the following months. “First,” she told me, “it was 24 hours. Then it was a few days. Then it was a few weeks. Now, it’s a month at a time and it happens almost every other month.”
More recent targets include Deneen Borelli, the Blaze TV host of “Here’s the Deal,” and Graham Allen, the Blaze TV host of “Rant Nation.” Facebook even cited a benign quote from St. Augustine for removal on multiple occasions for “hate speech.”
As the next presidential elections grow nearer, Americans should expect that Facebook, which is used by nearly 70 percent of Americans, will continue to curtail conservative freedom of expression while allowing debasing and inaccurate anti-conservative content to be spread with reckless abandon.
In the wake of Facebook’s continued efforts to break Levine’s spirit, she has refused to give in. But as she waits with no indication of when, or if, she may regain her ability to reach the audience she built over nine years, Levine feels that she may be out of options.
If Americans allow private companies like Facebook to silence whom they like, Levine says, “free speech in America…is dead.”
While Facebook may rejoice at chalking up another downed opponent in its pursuit of a 2020 victory, those responsible for this hypocritical and partisan thought-censorship should consider the long-term implications of their efforts for the First Amendment rights of American citizens.