For more than a decade, Texas native Don Kirchoff has used Facebook to share news and information with fellow conservatives. The longtime Heritage Foundation supporter and Heritage Action Sentinel frequently posts articles from The Daily Signal as well as content from other conservative organizations and media outlets.
But is anyone seeing them?
Many of Kirchoff’s Facebook posts have zero likes or comments, prompting him to take his case directly to Facebook. While that worked in the past, he has noticed the problem more often.
Kirchoff captured screenshots and shared them with The Daily Signal, which is Heritage’s multimedia news organization, as well as Facebook. He joins “The Daily Signal Podcast” to explain the situation and raise awareness for other conservatives.
Listen to the interview or read a lightly edited transcript below.
Rob Bluey: You and I first met at a Heritage Foundation event back in 2018. At which point, you shared some of the troubling experiences you had at Facebook, and I attempted to intervene and put you in touch with some folks there to help sort this out.
Sadly, three years later, it seems that you’re still fighting to make sure that your content is being seen on the platform. Can you tell our listeners your story?
Don Kirchoff: I had learned how to use Facebook probably at least 10 years ago, and Facebook continued more and more to prevent me from posting things. I would be blocked three days at a time, a week at a time. And then eventually, I think it was in April of about 2018, they just completely shut down my account. It was as if I never existed on Facebook.
And Rob, that’s of the time I spoke with you and you put me in touch with a person in Facebook, and two or three days later, I was back up posting as normal, as if I had never been shut off.
And for the last two or three years, most of my posts have not had difficulty, unless I crossed, I guess, values with a group of liberals out there. And I believe what they would do is they would send messages to Facebook that I was doing something against their community standards, and Facebook gradually, more and more, began, I believe, shadow banning me.
So when that would happen, I would simply do a screenshot of the evidence I had and I’d send it to this contact I have, you gave me, in Facebook and things would seem to get better, but in the last couple of months, this shadow banning has become severe.
In fact, some of the just outstanding information, fact-based conservative information, that I would post would get no views, no attention whatsoever. So I’ve, again, in the last couple months, began sharing screenshots of that type of information with Facebook. And I really don’t know what they’re doing about it because I don’t know what’s being done behind my screen.
Bluey: Don, for our listeners who might not know the term shadow banning, it’s something that members of Congress here in Washington have experienced, as well as users like yourself. Can you explain what you are sharing when you contact Facebook and what you mean by shadow banning?
Kirchoff: When I contact Facebook, it’s because [of] a post of mine, which could be an article prepared by The Heritage Foundation or The Daily Signal, or the New York Post, any of these really great fact-based conservative pieces of information.
And I believe shadow banning to me means that when I post it, there’s no activity. There are no likes, no dislikes, no comments, no shares, or very, very few. To me, that’s what shadow banning is. In other words, I put something out there, but nobody can see it or do anything with it.
Bluey: You’re absolutely right. And we’ll share some of those screenshots, so our users can log onto dailysignal.com and see for themselves what you mean. You’ve shared them with me, and it’s really interesting. We certainly appreciate that you help sharing Daily Signal stories and Heritage Foundation content.
My question for you is, does it appear to you that Facebook is taking issue with the specific sources of news and information, or is it posts from conservatives like yourself, as you said earlier, whose values might not align?
Kirchoff: I really believe it’s both. I think some of the material I’ve posted such as The Daily Signal or New York Post, from what I hear and read in the media, those sources are already being censored by Facebook. So it’s not a surprise to me that when I post them, they are also censored on my Facebook page, but I think they are censoring me personally.
And I think that’s driven most of the time when there is an issue or content—and it might be on socialism or the border problem. If I post something like that on a more liberal Facebook page, it’s then that I can associate with that a higher frequency of censorship on my own page.
So I think that part is personal because I become too visible out there in the liberal posting groups.
Rob Bluey: I think that’s interesting because you’ve said you’ve investigated some of these liberal or left-leaning Facebook groups, and you’ve discovered that in looking at some of their own posts and the content in those groups, the same type of thing isn’t happening.
So what did you discover as you poked around yourself on the platform, and what did you find?
Kirchoff: What I find is on those liberal groups, postings on the same content but a liberal-leaning view, there can be hundreds and even thousands of activity actions on those posts. Whereas if I post conservative content on my Facebook page, it is what I call banned. Nobody can see it, therefore, there’s no action on it. Same issue, just a different point of view.
Bluey: Don, taking a step back, you mentioned that you’ve been active on Facebook now for about a decade. Why is Facebook an important platform for you to be sharing this type of political or policy type of information?
Kirchoff: That’s a great question because on Facebook, you could put out more information and you can engage people. These discussion threads become very educational. For example, my view is that I need to help push back on false information on some of these subjects put out by the liberal media, and therefore, engage people in discussions, both who have the same view as mine or who have an opposing view. That’s welcome on my Facebook page.
It’s really interesting how people with both my view and a more liberal view on a subject will get engaged in Facebook discussions, but if the conservative view is shadow banned or prevented from reaching the public, those intellectual discussions can’t even take place.
Bluey: That’s so true, and we appreciate you taking the time, that you want to engage with your fellow users on Facebook, those friends and others who may be in Facebook groups with you, to have those types of conversation and discussions. I’ve noticed a change myself on Facebook, and I’m wondering if you can pinpoint a moment when you feel that Facebook started to change in terms of how it was allowing you to share content?
Was it sometime during the Trump presidency? Was it before that? Was it just recently? Or has this been changing over the course of the last five years, in a way that is increasingly restrictive?
Kirchoff: I think it’s been changing gradually over a long period of time. I think it got significantly worse this summer. Why? I don’t know. I just don’t know why, because I can’t see what’s going on in Facebook. All I can see in my view is what the outcome is, as impacting conservative information I try to post.
Bluey: Facebook, unlike some of the other social media platforms, has created an Oversight Board. It’s separate from the company. It makes big decisions, including things like, should President [Donald] Trump be banned from the platform? Of course, that was a decision earlier this year that they said, “Facebook can’t indefinitely do that. They have to come up with some criteria.”
Do you think that something like an Oversight Board is a good development, and have you thought about appealing some of your cases to the Oversight Board, to see if maybe you can escalate it to that level?
Kirchoff: Well, the answer is yes. In fact, I have been sharing some information, the same information that I send to the Facebook content. I also am copying an attorney in Washington, D.C. And you may not remember, Rob, but it is the same attorney who you put me in touch with in 2018. And for a while, he would respond every time I provided information.
He even got me involved with a Facebook questionnaire that was helping to sort of, I guess, define who would be on this kind of board. And I continue to send that information to him, but I don’t know what, if anything, is being done with it.
Bluey: Well, I think that that’s the frustration. They do take a limited number of cases, and usually the ones that they do take are fairly high profile. But Don, whatever we can do to help, certainly, consider us. I know you’re sharing a lot of content that we produce, so we certainly have a stake in this game as well.
I wanted to ask you what your advice is to others who might find themselves in a similar situation and be listening to this interview today?
Kirchoff: Again, that’s a good question, too, because I see people making comments about being banned themselves or blocked completely. So when that happens, I direct message them and ask them to contact me on my email address. And when they do, I give them the contact in Facebook to whom they can send detailed information on what’s happening to them.
So yes, I can be contacted by email. The problem is there are so many direct messages every day, I just cannot see them. But if I know somebody’s going to direct message me in a narrow window of time with a problem and can contact me by email, I happily put them in contact with this Facebook person.
Bluey: Well, Don, we appreciate the work that you’re doing to help others, and also to spread the conservative message. As we wrap-up the interview here, I want to give you a moment to just share what it is about conservative principles and the values that you believe in that inspired you to become active. As a grassroots activist, involved with Heritage Action and The Heritage Foundation, was there something in your life that motivated you to take this step?
Kirchoff: Yes. When it became apparent that the only two nominees for president of the Democrat Party was going to be either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton, that got my wife’s and my attention. Up until that point, we simply had our careers. We raised our family, we minded our own business, and we voted, and that was the extent to which we became politically involved.
But when the Democrats were going to have only one of those two as a candidate, we joined tea parties. And we began traveling, particularly to Washington, and attending conferences on how to become an activist. It’s there that we became involved with The Heritage Foundation.
It is at that time they set up Heritage Action. We joined immediately. We were among the first to join. This group, more than any others we became in contact with, [was] action-oriented. We wanted to do something, not just talk about it. And that’s what we’re enabled to do in Heritage Action because of the great resources we get in that group.
Bluey: Well, and of course, Heritage is the parent organization of The Daily Signal, and Heritage Action is a strong, independent partner of ours. So Don, we appreciate your leadership and your efforts there in Texas, and we’ll continue to keep in touch.
Thank you for speaking out and giving voice to some of the concerns that I think so many other conservatives have experienced on platforms like Facebook.
Kirchoff: Well, Rob, thank you for being there when we needed help. We really appreciate everything Heritage Foundation and Heritage Action provides for us.
Bluey: Thank you, Don.
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