A public reprimand of political consulting firm Nellie Akalp by Twitter and Facebook appears to have already had a chilling effect on more than just her firm.
A campaign strategist for Chris Murphy, a New Jersey Democrat running for Senate in 2020, said on Twitter that the use of the word “incubator” could discourage others from working with Murphy’s campaign. Facebook also tweeted that it did not take positions on politics and that the use of that word could run afoul of its terms of service.
The consultant tweeted, “Get it straight: if there is a promise to recruit recruits from outside the [political] universe, the only @Facebook/ @Twitter platform you’re working with is incubator… So no.” Murphy’s campaign has also enlisted Instagram and Snapchat for social media outreach and has devoted a considerable portion of its site to attracting volunteers and donations.
The dispute sparked a widespread backlash against Twitter and Facebook, with Democrats and Republicans alike accusing the social media giants of ignoring the sincerity of the reprimand.
The president of the company’s board of directors, Sean Parker, a billionaire co-founder of Napster, posted on Twitter on Friday that the firm should not be “criticized for connecting political opponents on the platforms they control.”
The Vermont Democratic Party (VDP) held a rally on Saturday urging social media companies to provide resources to others who wish to run for office and to censure Twitter for engaging in “the practice of political trolling.”
In his letter, former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe took aim at the Twitter account @DNC/TC0 or @nonstopfire, which was reported to be directed by Chief Operating Officer Sean Spicer and included a few of President Trump’s aides.
McCabe wrote that the account “directly directed attacks against staffers on a platform they had a large responsibility to oversee, leading them to commit revenge attacks against senior staff.”
Another McCain digital director, Glenn Thompson, published an article for The Federalist titled “Twitter Bans the Right and American Policies.”
The Trump campaign issued a sweeping denial of the allegations against the two companies, telling CNN that the Twitter account had been “suspended” due to the use of expletives.
In a statement issued on Friday, Murphy said that “it is imperative that the leaders of major social media companies understand that the federal election process, and the coming U.S. midterms and 2020 presidential election, are as important as they are for the general public and should be treated with the utmost respect.”
A campaign staffer noted that Murphy has continued to run with the help of the firms. The staffer said Murphy’s campaign and the DNC/TC0 together have received $8 million in support from Twitter and Facebook.
Facebook also posted a message to its employees on Friday, saying that it had launched an investigation into the matter.