On April 19, The Cato Institute vice president of research Brink Lindsey tweeted his dislike for former congressman Ron Paul for his “hideous corruption of libertarian ideas.” Accusing the most important member of the Libertarian movement of spreading ideas that “[put] his movement in the Trumpism family tree,” the Cato scholar accused both the president and the former presidential candidate of being xenophobic.
Ron Paul's xenophobia was a hideous corruption of libertarian ideas and puts his movement in the Trumpism family tree
— Brink Lindsey (@lindsey_brink) April 19, 2017
But to Paul supporters who have been paying attention to the Texas obstetrician and his decades of anti-collectivist activism, the idea that one of the most peace-oriented free marketers in recent history is anything close to xenophobic didn’t sit well.
It was with that sentiment in mind that author Alex Witoslawski wrote a piece denouncing Lindsey and highlighting his “long history of promoting views at odds with the grassroots libertarians.” Daniel McAdams, executive director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, pointed to an October 2002 Reason piece by Lindsey entitled “No more 9/11s: The case for invading Iraq.”
But as soon as Witoslawski’s article went live on April 21st, something went incredibly wrong as countless Facebook users reported being momentarily blocked from making certain posts once they shared Witoslawski’s piece on the social media network.
Some of those who agreed to speak to Big League Politics about this ordeal were clearly upset. Was Lindsey or those who felt sympathetic to his complaints behind a campaign to stifle Witoslawski’s right to have his voice heard by reporting his article? Or was Facebook itself using its “fake news” witch hunt as a means to punish libertarian-leaning organizations?
Some of the most prominent figures to have their accounts temporarily flagged included Jeff Deist, the president of the Mises Institute, an educational organization focused in researching and teaching the Austrian School of economics and laissez-faire political economy.
In his post, Deist criticized Lindsey’s impulse to “impose a cultural component upon libertarianism.” Deist added that by attacking Paul’s supporters, all the Cato scholar proved was that he seems unwilling to have the humility to put himself in other people’s shoes.
Even the widely popular page Liberty Memes was temporarily flagged after sharing Witoslawski’s article.
In a conversation with Big League Politics, one of Liberty Memes’ administrators said that as soon as he noticed that particular link had been targeted, he “immediately thought of the way our page was treated last year.” He asked to remain anonymous.
In 2016, Liberty Memes saw images mocking then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton being suddenly deleted from its page. As administrators were suspended from Facebook, they were left with no way to appeal the company’s decision but to go to the media.
“Don’t get me wrong,” one of the administrators explained, “Facebook is a private company that has every right to treat its users any way that it wants.” However, “a vital market function is consumer feedback, and if [Facebook] wants to please its users, it will listen when they complain about having their views silenced.”
Seeing Liberty Conservative as a publication that keeps “libertarians and conservatives intellectually honest,” the administrator added that it’s “an absolute shame to see them silenced with the threat of punishment on users who share their material.”
To Witoslawski, this issue must be cleared as soon as possible, as Facebook’s founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has “said he wants Facebook to be treated as a public utility.”
In a statement to Big League Politics, Witoslawski said that while Facebook has the right to censor what it sees fit, if that is the case, the company should refrain from spending “more than a million dollars each month on lobbying for favoritism and special deals from the government.” After all, if they are “seeking to use the power of the state in order to monopolize the social media market,” then they “have no right to censor any news or opinion website based solely on its content, which is what Facebook is doing by blocking my latest article for the Liberty Conservative.”
Calling this targeted campaign an “out-of-control assault on our First Amendment rights,” Witoslawski is concerned that leaving this issue unaddressed would lead to a “purge” of right-wing views from social media platforms.
Big League Politics contacted Facebook’s conservative outreach team, providing them with links to pages that were punished for sharing Witoslawski’s story. While we have reason to believe they will get back to us soon with a statement or more information on why this particular link was targeted, we have yet to receive anything back.
This story will be updated.