Facebook removes Amanda Chase’s Senate page
GOP gubernatorial candidate mulls class action suit against social media giant
Facebook appears to have permanently removed State Sen. Amanda Chase’s official state Senate page, according to email communications provided by the campaign.
After multiple unsuccessful attempts by her campaign to get her public page reinstated as recently as last week, Chase, R-Chesterfield, said Sunday that she is considering a national class action lawsuit against the social media giant on behalf of herself and others whose pages were restricted because of content related to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
Chase added that she feels “singled out” by Facebook for her conservative politics, and that Facebook’s ban on her Senate page also has harmed her campaign for the Republican gubernatorial nomination. According to Chase, she had 144,000 followers on the public page, where she frequently posted live videos and photos from events. Her personal Facebook page and a private Facebook group for supporters of her gubernatorial campaign are still active, however.
Chase’s Facebook ban — which started as a temporary restriction on new posts and livestreams on the Senate page in early January — occurred at the same time that then-President Donald Trump’s public Facebook page was banned indefinitely. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that in Trump’s case Facebook made the decision for public safety reasons. The Facebook Oversight Board, a high-profile group determining content moderation decisions, is currently considering whether to overturn Trump’s ban and also plans to examine Facebook’s policies on elected officials.
The Virginia GOP has scheduled its nominating convention for governor and other statewide offices for May 8, and Chase campaign worker John Findlay, a former executive director of the Republican Party of Virginia, attempted last week to get Chase’s Facebook page reinstated before the convention. The social media giant first restricted Chase from streaming live video, posting or commenting on the page for 30 days in early January, and it took down two videos Chase posted from the National Mall in Washington, D.C., during a pro-Trump rally that took place a few hours before the violent takeover of the Capitol.
On March 11, Findlay, whose wife is also part of Chase’s campaign staff, emailed Facebook employee Rachel Holland, who is responsible for U.S. politics and government outreach. Findlay’s email to Holland was conciliatory, writing that Chase was “more than willing to comply” with Facebook’s requests, including deleting posts and “avoiding forbidden content.” Findlay added that Chase “would like to do a great deal of advertising” on Facebook. He said in an interview Sunday that he considered the request “likely a longshot, but it was a distinct possibility,” noting that Chase and Trump are the only high-profile political figures whose pages have been removed by Facebook.
However, Facebook did not change its mind. Reiterating a Jan. 19 communication with Chase’s campaign, Holland wrote in a March 16 email that Chase’s Senate page “was correctly disabled upon incurring multiple violations of our Community Standards which resulted in content removal. … Due to the potential for real-world harm, we do not allow exceptions [to] this policy.”
Two months earlier, Holland had explained in an email to Chase’s campaign that Facebook restricts and disables pages that are tied to violent groups, including U.S.-based militias and QAnon followers, and limits other content that includes “praise and support of the storming of the U.S. Capitol, calls to bring weapons to locations across the U.S. — not just in Washington but anywhere in the U.S. — including protests, incitement or encouragement of the events at the Capitol, including videos and photos from the protestors.”
Chase said Sunday she’s strongly considering bringing a lawsuit against Facebook and believes she and other pro-Trump partisans are being punished for their political beliefs. “You don’t adopt un-American policies, Facebook,” Chase said. “This is all a target on conservative Republicans. This has lit a fire under me. I will put Facebook out of business.”
Findlay said Sunday that although Chase is interested in suing Facebook, he’s not confident that a lawsuit would be resolved in time for the May 8 convention. “I think she’s still the overwhelming favorite” in the Republican gubernatorial field, despite the ban, he added.