GOP Congresswoman Asks Facebook To Explain Suspension of Gold Star Mother

Facebook and Instagram removed Shana Chappell's posts criticizing Biden

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R., N.Y.) / Getty Images
September 2, 2021

A Republican congresswoman is pushing Facebook and Instagram to explain why they censored posts critical of President Biden by the mother of a Marine killed in Afghanistan, according to a letter obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.

Rep. Claudia Tenney (R., N.Y.) called on Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Instagram head Adam Mosseri to explain why the social media sites removed posts by Shana Chappell that criticized Biden for the debacle in Afghanistan and his allegedly callous behavior at the transfer of her son's remains.

Chappell's Instagram account was suspended and one of her Facebook posts was hidden, although both were later restored. Facebook, which owns Instagram, said Chappell's Instagram account was "incorrectly deleted." When asked for clarification on why Chappell's Instagram account was removed, a spokesman said the platform does not "comment on how enforcements occurred."

Tenney wants the companies to explain their behavior. "Our Gold Star families and the American public deserve better than this," she wrote. "After sacrificing so much for the safety and security of our Nation, their speech should not be stifled by faceless Silicon Valley censors."

Facebook and Instagram have come under fire for unclear or partisan content moderation. Facebook has "downranked" articles that argued COVID-19 escaped a Chinese lab. Tenney serves on the House GOP's "Tech Task Force," which is preparing a legislative package to tackle the power of major tech companies.

In the letter, Tenney expressed concerns about politically motivated censorship. "I am aware that the White House acknowledged it would be flagging for Facebook, Instagram's parent company, posts it deemed 'problematic.' Weaponizing the power of the Executive Branch against an open public discourse is wholly un-American, and it would be a crucial error for Instagram to assist in this."

Biden has not shied away from exerting leverage over Facebook. In June, he accused the platform of "killing people" by allowing "misinformation" about COVID on the site. Multiple former Facebook executives serve in the Biden White House.

According to a Facebook spokesman, Chappell's "tribute to her heroic son does not violate any of our policies." Chappell said that after she posted about her son, Instagram began flagging her older posts and warned that her account would be deleted if she continued posting. It is unclear what triggered the warnings on older posts.