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COLUMN: Marsha Blackburn's ad deserved to be blocked



Twitter recently reversed its decision to block the spread of the Senate campaign video of Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tennessee, because of its inflammatory language. Previously, Twitter had deemed her use of the phrase “sale of baby body parts” unacceptable and in violation of its terms.

Blackburn’s ad violated Twitter's policies for promoted advertisements, a Twitter spokesperson said Monday. The company found it “likely to evoke a negative reaction.”

However, on Tuesday, the social media company told Politico that it had reversed the decision and said in a statement that there was "room to refine their policies." 

Twitter made a completely valid move by not allowing this advertisement to be shown, and then made a weak one by reneging on it.

For one, the material in question could have been, as Twitter stated, very distressing for a wide audience. It was completely within Twitter's right to remove it from promoted materials.

A Blackburn campaign spokeswoman said Twitter's initial decision was "censorship." 

However, the ad could have been shown and promoted from her own private Twitter account. It still would have been online, but it would not have been spread as a “promoted” tweet to anyone who does not already follow her.

Beyond it being within Twitter's rights as a company, her statement in the ad is simply misguided. 

In her ad, she claims that she was on a panel that “fought Planned Parenthood” and “stopped the sale of baby body parts.”

She is referring to the 2015 release of secretly recorded footage of Planned Parenthood officials speaking about donating, not selling, fetal tissue to researchers.

This is a legal action as long as no profit is made on Planned Parenthood’s part.

Blackburn served on the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, which investigated Planned Parenthood’s fetal tissue donation. 

These investigations found no sales of fetal tissue, prompting Democrats to call the ordeal “wasteful” and express that it put “researchers, providers and patients across this country at risk.”

Blackburn’s committee on the panel released a statement after the investigation that said fetal tissue “makes a vanishingly small contribution to clinical and research efforts, if it contributes at all.”

In fact, if Twitter had upheld its decision to prevent this ad from being promoted, it could have benefitted Blackburn.

If fewer people saw that she did not understand that no “baby body parts” were being “sold” at the hands of Planned Parenthood, fewer people would know that she had grossly misinterpreted a process of biological research.

Fewer people would know that she had gone against her own committee’s findings for the purpose of sensationalizing her campaign ad. 

Both of these things make her unfit for a seat in the Senate, so the fewer people who find out about them, the better her run will go. 

Twitter could have protected her from the trolls and insulting replies this ad would have received if disseminated to a wide audience. 

And they could have prevented the spread of bent truths about fetal tissue research in general.

The reversal of Twitter's decision to block her ad was succumbing to the pressure to publicize sensationalized rumors from radical conservatives, and it should have held strong in their initial findings.

Blackburn said that she’s “politically incorrect,” but her ad proves she is also factually incorrect. And since Twitter flipped its stance on the ad, now everyone will know.

meickhof@indiana.edu

@maggie_eickhoff

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