Facebook told two women their pro-Trump videos were 'unsafe'

Lynnette "Diamond" Hardaway and Rochelle "Silk" Richardson slammed Facebook on April 8.
Lynnette "Diamond" Hardaway and Rochelle "Silk" Richardson slammed Facebook on April 8.
Published April 10, 2018

Two sisters famous for praising President Donald Trump say Facebook has deemed their videos dangerous.

Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson are better known as "Diamond and Silk" to their hundreds of thousands of fans - one of whom is Trump.

The sisters, who are black, campaigned for him in an election in which blacks overwhelmingly voted against the Republican. And the sisters continue to defend him against accusations of racism. ("Build that wall; build it tall; protect us all before this country falls," they once rapped)

Thank you Diamond and Silk!

The sisters' on-camera style - Diamond (Hardaway) typically attacks Trump's critics in lengthy rants while Silk (Richardson) chants affirmatively beside her - has brought them nearly 1.4 million followers on Facebook.

But in September, the sisters say, the social media giant began to prevent them from notifying followers of new videos and started to limit the spread of their posts. It is unclear whether the pair was affected by Facebook's variouschanges to its algorithm, which have affected other publishers, as well.

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Diamond and Silk said they spent months trying to get an explanation from Facebook. Last week, they shared excerpts of an email that they said the company sent them on Thursday:

"The Policy team has came to the conclusion that your content and your brand has been determined unsafe to the community," it read. "This decision is final and it is not appeal-able in any way."

Diamond and Silk did not respond to a request for more details on the email.

Facebook has acknowledged sending the message, but it also said the missive was "inaccurate" - thought it did not elaborate. When The Washington Post asked what "unsafe" meant and what content was problematic, spokeswoman Sarah Pollack replied with a company statement:

"We have communicated directly with Diamond And Silk about this issue. 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."

The sisters don't sound appeased by this and have turned the indignation they usually reserve for Democrats and liberals against Facebook.

"We don't belong to no gang, so how are we unsafe to the community?" Diamond said Sunday on "Fox & Friends," as Silk nodded and mm-hmed along. "It bothers me. It's offensive. It's appalling . . . Why are you censoring two women of color? . . . They're trying to become a dictator."

This isn't the first time that the sisters (as well as conservatives and the far right) have accused a publishing platform of discriminating against them. They claimed last year that most of their YouTube videos had been demonetized in retaliation of their support for Trump.

Wonder if @YouTube @TeamYouTube stopped the monetization of our videos because we are loyal supporters of the @POTUS ....Hummmm...........

But since getting the email from Facebook last week, Diamond and Silk have joined many in the United States who are calling on the government to intercede with social media giants - which have been accused, variously, of exposing users' private data, enabling propaganda campaigns and, in the sisters' case, penalizing conservative users.

"I call that dictatorship," Diamond told a Breitbart writer this week. "So, I believe that maybe the government should start looking at these here entities and maybe I don't think regulate them, but if they see you violating someone's free speech now you are in trouble."

As The Post's reported last year, the growing chorus of right-leaning technologists and leaders emerged as tech companies began to shut down or cut off service to right-wing accounts and sites.

"Events in Charlottesville [Virginia] and at Google, where an employee was fired for disparaging the company's diversity policies, have pushed them toward an unexpected battle cry: Tell the government to force powerful Internet companies to allow anyone to express themselves on their platforms."

Facebook has not explained what, if anything, the sisters have done to violate its terms of service or be considered "unsafe." While some critics are suspicious of Diamond and Silk's links to Trump - including a payment from his 2016 campaign for "field consulting" and a sort of photo op at his Commerce Department last year - their videos are not violent or especially incendiary.

In any case, as Facebook's chief executive prepares to testify to Congress about the company's many scandals, Diamond and Silk and their million-plus viewers show no sign of letting up. Google searches for the pair spiked as Fox News and conservative outlets picked up on their frustration.

"Taking away their right of free speech and our right to pick and choose what we want to hear," Lynda Ford wrote Tuesday in one of thousands of angry comments on the pair's Facebook page.