In February 2009, Alex Zablocki and I used Facebook to organize the New York City Tea Party, one of the first Tea Party protests in the country. Several thousand people joined our Facebook group, which we used to organize our first Tea Party protest. Hundreds of people showed up, we passed around a bullhorn, and we officially became “Tea Party organizers.” Without Facebook our rally would have most likely attracted about 20 people. Facebook was powerful and we knew it. Our next Tea Party rally, also organized through Facebook, brought 12,000 people to City Hall in Lower Manhattan. A social movement had begun.
Our experience was hardly unique. When the Tea Party was getting off the ground in 2009, almost every television and radio interview featuring a Tea Party organizer included the explanation: “I was angry at the spending so I started a Facebook group.”
Since then, this very important social organizing tool has changed. Pay attention because this next sentence is important: It is increasingly apparent that Facebook does not want people to use its platform for political organizing, and the reason seems to have something to do with the success of Tea Partiers and Middle Easterners in utilizing Facebook for their causes.
That’s why a fellow New York City Tea Partier, Jonathan Cousar, and I have been building an alternative to Facebook specifically for conservatives and freedom-loving Americans: FreedomTorch.com. More on that to come.
Facebook’s unfortunate evolution
Over the past two years, Facebook has taken a series of steps to limit the ability of people to use Facebook for political purposes. The company has changed the way Facebook’s group, newsfeed and event features work, and it has restricted the ability of users to communicate with people (via messages and wall posts) who are outside of their real-life social networks.
What’s more, it’s become clear that Facebook itself is dominated by liberals:
- 98% of political donations from Facebook employees went to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election.
- Chris Hughes, one of Facebook’s co-founders, headed up Barack Obama’s successful website during the 2008 campaign. In 2009, he was featured on the cover of Fast Company magazine as “The kid who made Obama president: how Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes unleashed Barack’s base — and changed politics and marketing forever.”
- Facebook’s former attorney for privacy issues, Chris Kelly, ran for attorney general of California in 2010 on a far-left platform.
Many Americans and Tea Party organizers are waking up to this liberal culture at Facebook, which was on display at the recent Facebook townhall where Barack Obama and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg fawned over each other.
What was once an open platform to meet and organize people has devolved into a platform that keeps its users inside limited social networks. And there are signs that Facebook is planning to take further steps to prevent political organizing and limit free speech on its website.
“Maybe we will block content in some countries, but not others,” Adam Conner told The Wall Street Journal in April. “We are occasionally held in uncomfortable positions because now we’re allowing too much, maybe, free speech in countries that haven’t experienced it before.”
And while Facebook clearly played a major role in the so-called “Arab Spring,” Zuckerberg has continually tried to downplay Facebook’s role in the uprisings that have swept the Middle East.
In contrast, Twitter has encouraged people to use its platform for political purposes.
Facebook’s liberal culture and its evolution away from a political platform has led many Tea Party organizers to rethink their relationship with the social network that played such an important role in organizing the Tea Party movement in 2009.
FreedomTorch.com is filling the void that Facebook once filled. It’s become a place where conservatives can organize, meet others and voice their political opinions without having to fear that their accounts will be disabled or their posts will be deleted. As Facebook continues to restrict the ability of its members to organize, FreedomTorch.com will continue to grow.
Kellen Giuda is currently President of kellenPROJECTS. He previously served as Director of BBA Now, a coalition of seven million people supporting a Balanced Budget Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Kellen also started the New York City Tea Party, is a former member of the Tea Party Patriots Board of Directors and was an architect in Lower Manhattan, New York City.