On day one of his congressional testimony, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was asked, by Ted Cruz, about two YouTubers named Diamond and Silk. On day two, the pair — sisters whose given names are Lynette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson — was brought up again. “Why is Facebook censoring conservative bloggers such as Diamond and Silk? Facebook called them ‘unsafe’ to the community. That is ludicrous. They hold conservative views. That isn’t unsafe,” Joe Barton, a representative from Texas, asked. (Barton was reading a question sent to him by a constituent.) “Let me tell you something right now … Diamond & Silk is not terrorism,” Marsha Blackburn, a representative from Tennessee, told Zuckerberg when she brought up the pair. Diamond and Silk who? you may be asking yourself. What, if anything, do two black pro-Trump vloggers have to do with Cambridge Analytica? you might also be wondering. Great questions. Select All is here to help.
Diamond and Silk rose to prominence during the 2016 election cycle thanks to their effusive, off-kilter pro-Trump videos and other content. The sisters, who are from North Carolina, have amassed over a million Facebook followers for videos generally featuring the two of them sitting and looking directly into the camera while discussing a news topic. Diamond (Hardaway) narrates, while Silk (Richardson) sits beside her nodding and audibly backing up everything her sister says.
On YouTube, their most popular video — and a pretty good representation of what their videos are like — features the two going after Megyn Kelly after a 2016 presidential debate. In the video, Hardaway, quite loudly, suggests that Kelly go back to “reporting the news for Sesame Street,” after Kelly brought up Trump’s previous comments about women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” When Hardaway calls Kelly a “bitch,” Richardson makes a beeping noise to censor her sister.
Diamond and Silk’s internet-personality business had been resolutely chugging along since the election, until a few months ago, when they began to accuse Facebook of limiting the reach of their posts. Then, in early April, they said they’d been notified by Facebook that their content was “unsafe.” “The Policy team has come to the conclusion that your content and your brand has been determined unsafe to the community,” Facebook told the pair in a note, as reported by the Washington Post. “This decision is final and it is not appeal-able in any way.” The sisters also claimed that Facebook had begun censoring their content in September 2017, keeping their followers from seeing when the pair had posted new videos. Ted Cruz cited this to Zuckerberg as a “pattern of bias and political censorship” on Facebook.
This, naturally, only increased Diamond and Silk’s prominence on the conservative-media circuit. And, consequently, their prominence in the letters and calls from right-wing constituents to their senators and congresspeople. And, from there, their prominence in questions asked of Zuckerberg during these hearings.
Why were Diamond and Silk deemed “unsafe”? Zuckerberg told Barton, “In that specific case, our team made an enforcement error and we have already gotten in touch with them to reverse it.” A Facebook representative told the Post that the note it sent the sisters was “inaccurate.” “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.” A Facebook spokesperson declined to elaborate on what exactly the company meant when it deemed Diamond and Silk’s content and brand “unsafe.”
We’ll note that a perusal of Diamond and Silk’s Facebook page turns up links to a number of websites and domains that — were they not being linked to by upstanding citizens such as Diamond and Silk — an impartial monitor might describe as “sketchy.” Is it possible that Facebook’s moderation tools, gauging the quality of their links, mistook Diamond and Silk for a pair of scam artists? Obviously, that would have been a huge mistake. But perhaps an understandable one.
Also on Wednesday, Roseanne Barr, an hour after tweeting that she was “off to another country for a month!!!” but would be available via Twitter, offered her support for the sisters.
Roseanne, thank you.