A top US Senator has criticised Twitter and Facebook for blocking as hate crime a quote of Mother Teresa on abortion, saying the pattern of censorship by the two social media giants is “really dangerous”. Mother Teresa, the founder of Missionaries of Charity who is revered for her work with the poor in India, was proclaimed a saint by Pope Francis at the Vatican in 2016.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz on Thursday alleged that the top officials of Twitter and Facebook were unable to respond to a question on blocking Mother Teresa’s quote on abortion as hate crime. He described it as a dangerous situation.
“Here is a tweet that says abortion is profoundly anti-women and it is a quote from Mother Teresa and this tweet was blocked. Now it is fairly remarkable that Mother Teresa is now deemed hate speech. Do either of you would agree with the proposition that Mother Teresa is issuing hate speech? Is this hate speech?” Cruz asked during a Congressional hearing on Wednesday.
Cruz said that there is a pattern of censorship of conservative and pro-life voices on social media platforms, including posts from the Susan B Anthony List organisation and the marketing campaign of the new pro-life movie “Unplanned”.
“They (the extreme left and big tech companies) say if you don’t want to be censored, just don’t say things we disagree with,” Cruz told Fox News. “That’s really the arrogance. We see that on college campuses. We see that in big tech. We had testimony today, for example, we had the producer of the movie “Unplanned”, a phenomenal movie — true story of Abby Johnson, former clinic director of Planned Parenthood who became a pro-life activist,” he said.
Cruz alleged that Google refused to run their ads and Twitter took down their web page. “They did everything they could. The big networks all refused to carry their ads, and nonetheless, it became the number four movie in the country. It’s in the theatres right now. We see this pattern over and over again.
“We heard testimony from the Susan B Anthony List about how repeatedly pro-life tweets, pro-life posts have been censored. We had during the hearing today, I put up a tweet that was sent out from the Susan B Anthony list — a quote from Mother Teresa that Twitter censored. I asked Twitter, ‘Do you consider this quote from Mother Teresa to be hate speech?’ They refused to answer that,” Cruz said.
“That pattern of censorship is really dangerous and none of us should be happy to have a handful of left-wing Silicon Valley billionaires censoring what is said and silencing conservatives, silencing Christians, silencing people of faith. That’s not right and we’ve got to act to stop it,” the top Republican Senator from Texas said.
Without directly answering the question, Facebook Public Policy Director Neil Potts said a lot of this depends on intent and the context of statementsor images or videos that are shared. “But in general pro-life position would not be violating our community standards for hate speech. I — the Mother Teresa quote did not — would not violate ours and — and to be — just for complete transparency, we consult a range of groups across the spectrum, across all lyrical ideologies to try to help inform our policies,” he said.
Potts argued that there is no uniform definition of hate speech across the globe. “So at Facebook, the way we define hate speech is an attack against a person or a group of people based on their protected characteristic like race, gender, religion, nationality, ethnicity, sexual orientation as well as serious disability,” he added.
Twitter Public Policy and Philanthropy Director Carols Monje said that every tweet has context behind it and every decision that is made has context. “There are many pro-life groups that advertise on our platforms currently in good standing and advertisers across the board whether they are selling soap or NFL sometimes have advertisements that are caught in our systems,” he added.
Mother Teresa was born on August 26, 1910 at Skopje in Macedonia. She died on September 5, 1997, less than a month after her 86th birthday.
She was the recipient of numerous honours including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 and the Bharat Ratna in 1980. In 2003, she was beatified as “Blessed Teresa of Calcutta”.