House Republicans have invited Diamond and Silk, two conservative video bloggers who were deemed “unsafe” by Facebook after becoming online sensations, to testify next week about allegations of bias online.
The hearing, set for Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, comes as Republicans accuse Facebook, Google and Twitter of favoring the liberal points of view popular in Silicon Valley and censoring conservative opinions. All three companies have been invited to attend the hearing but have not said whether they will.
Diamond and Silk are the nicknames of two North Carolina sisters who rose to online stardom during the 2016 presidential campaign because of their irreverent and outspoken support for Republican Donald Trump at a time when most other prominent African Americans were supporting his rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Diamond and Silk, by contrast, once said of Clinton, “She's not our slave master.”
The duo, whose real names are Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, became particularly popular among conservatives, amassing 1.6 million followers on Facebook and 146,000 subscribers on YouTube.
An email from Facebook this month accusing Diamond and Silk of “unsafe” content prompted widespread news coverage. Facebook quickly backed off but not before the issue became a cause among conservatives, with some Republican members of Congress questioning the company's chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, about the email when he testified on Capitol Hill last week.
Zuckerberg said he was not clear on why the sisters had been called “unsafe,” and he called the move “an enforcement error.”
Now they will have their own say.
Expect the sisters to pull no punches. When Diamond and Silk appeared on “Fox & Friends” this month, Diamond said: “We don’t belong to no gang, so how are we unsafe to the community? ... It bothers me. It’s offensive. It’s appalling. … Why are you censoring two women of color? … They’re trying to become a dictator.”
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a statement Thursday night: “The advent of social media has made it possible for people to connect across continents, explore vast amounts of information, and share meaningful dialogue with friends and strangers. However, this same technology can be used to suppress a particular viewpoint and manipulate public opinion. I look forward to hearing from a wide variety of experts at our hearing to discuss the free speech implications of social media filtering.”
Facebook has acknowledged sending the message to Diamond and Silk, but it also said it was “inaccurate.” The company did not immediately respond to requests for comment Thursday night.
“We have communicated directly with Diamond And Silk about this issue,” Facebook said in a statement last week. “The message they received last week was inaccurate and not reflective of the way we communicate with our community and the people who run Pages on our platform. We have provided them with more information about our policies and the tools that are applicable to their Page and look forward to the opportunity to speak with them.”