Big Tech has sent conservatives a clear message through its outrageous censorship practices: There is no room for worldviews that contradict the leftist version of reality, and real people are being harmed as a result.
Since MRC Free Speech America began tracking secondhand censorship in the first quarter of 2022, we have counted a total of 396,571,484 times that users have been harmed through the silencing tactics used by Big Tech platforms. And the year 2023 is off to a much worse start than most of 2022. MRC Free Speech America researchers recorded 363 documented cases of censorship in the first quarter (Q1) of 2023, which amounted to 82,249,700 times Big Tech harmed users. That’s more than triple the fourth quarter of 2022 when Big Tech harmed users 25,280,704 times by keeping information from them.
Several notable issues raised the ire of Big Tech companies in Q1 2023 more than others. Most notably, Big Tech censors targeted content regarding “transgenderism,” COVID-19 vaccines and the January 6, 2021 events at the U.S. Capitol. In particular, Big Tech made it a point of going after efforts by conservatives to bring attention to the infamous so-called “Trans Day of Vengeance.”
Big Tech’s 82,249,700 times of keeping information from social media users in the first quarter follows the 314,321,784 tallied times that users were harmed through secondhand censorship in all of 2022. Nearly half of the 2022 number was just in the first quarter alone at 158,641,918. In Q2 of 2022, the figure was down to 62,030,798, and by Q4, MRC Free Speech America counted 25,280,704 times users were harmed by Big Tech, who kept them from seeing information they had deliberately requested to see by following censored user accounts.
MRC defines secondhand censorship as the number of times that users on social media had information withheld from them.
MRC Free Speech America continues to track secondhand censorship across major social media platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn and Spotify.
This secondhand censorship report only scratches the surface of censorship during the first quarter of 2023, as it only covers documented cases found in MRC Free Speech America’s CensorTrack database.
See this link for a sampling of our first-quarter 2023 secondhand censorship numbers.
Big Tech has been targeting content that refuses to affirm the unreality of so-called “transgender” ideology for some time. Twitter’s new owner, Elon Musk, claimed his platform allows the public to control the narrative. MRC Free Speech America’s research shows Twitter is in fact censoring more, and it has dropped the hammer on speaking about biological facts.
MRC Free Speech America tallied at least 21,471,808 times secondhand censorship harmed users by keeping them from content related to so-called “transgenderism” in the first quarter of 2023. This number is significantly higher than the number of transgender-related secondhand censorship for Q1 2022, which previously showed the highest numbers for that category. Q1 of 2022 saw 16,012,551 users being harmed by not being allowed to view content from accounts they chose to follow.
The anomalous Q1 2023 figure resulted in large part due to users posting content that attempted to highlight the infamous “Trans Day of Vengeance” organized by leftist group Our Rights DC. Twitter’s Head of Trust and Safety, Ella Irwin, explained in a tweet that the platform had deleted more than 5,000 tweets about this event. She added that “‘Vengeance’ does not imply peaceful protest.” Big Tech made a concerted effort to censor any attempts to expose the event but the organizers ended up canceling the protest before it was scheduled to happen.
The “Trans Day of Vengeance” censorship event alone accounted for no less than 14 million times that users were harmed from Big Tech censorship. Some of the most prominent users affected by this broad censorship sweep included Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Green (R-GA), Daily Wire host Michael Knowles, Federalist CEO Sean Davis and radio personality Andrew Wilkow. The New York Post also had its Twitter account locked on March 30 for reporting on journalists affected by the “Trans day of Vengeance” censorship.
Other cases of censorship running amok in the first quarter of 2023 involved more standard “transgender”-related content. For example, Twitter harmed Rep. Greene’s 1,700,000 followers again when it censored a tweet about her “Protect Children’s Innocence Act” to stop child gender transition surgeries.
Twitter also placed a sensitive content filter over a tweet from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) that similarly condemned transition surgeries for children, impacting his 4,000,000 followers. Irish TV writer Graham Linehan tweeted that anyone who identifies as “transgender” has a mental illness. Twitter responded by making it so his 555,700 followers could not view these tweets and required Linehan to delete the tweets to regain access to his account. The platform also locked his account, preventing him from sharing other content with his followers until he deleted the tweets.
The next largest category in terms of secondhand censorship during Q1 2023 was COVID-19 content. MRC Free Speech America recorded 14,146,015 times users were harmed by being unable to view COVID-19-related content this quarter. Reporting on The Twitter Files and The Facebook Files highlighted those platforms’ vendettas and collusion with government entities to target content about COVID-19 or COVID-19 vaccines that contradicted the left or government’s approved narrative during the height of the pandemic. However, little progress has been made in curbing such censorship despite a notable uptick in reports, questions and speculation about the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 vaccines and the origins of the pandemic have arisen.
Undercover journalism outlet Project Veritas took a major blow from Big Tech over this issue when it released a series of videos allegedly showing a Pfizer executive speaking about its mRNA COVID-19 vaccine. Multiple platforms, including YouTube, Google, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter censored the outlet. The total harm to users across the five platforms amounted to at least 7,923,000 times Big Tech prevented users from viewing Project Veritas’ exposé.
Senior Human Events editor Jack Posobiec triggered the Twitter censors on Jan. 26 when he tweeted an article questioning whether there could be a connection between the high number of strokes in Millennials and the COVID-19 vaccines. Twitter slapped a “sensitive content” filter over his post, preventing Posobiec’s 1,925,318 Twitter followers at the time from seeing the article.
Facebook also harmed the 3,825,628 users who follow the Tucker Carlson Tonight Facebook page on Feb. 27. The platform slapped a “Missing Context” label on a post from Carlson’s Fox News show that discussed a Department of Energy video claiming COVID-19 was manufactured in a Chinese military lab. The label was based on a fact-check article from leftist fact-checker Politifact.
MRC Free Speech America found that Big Tech harmed users by stifling them from viewing content related to the January 6, 2021 events at the U.S. Capitol no fewer than 11 million times, and it only took a few cases of censorship to reach that number.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson devoted several of his Fox News programs to this issue as he was granted access to previously unreleased security footage taken on January 6. Facebook slapped the page with fact-checks at least two times when the Tucker Carlson Tonight page posted video from his evening show discussing what his team found in some of that footage, labeling them both “Partly false information.”
Additionally, the Glenn Beck Facebook page posted a link to a clip from his radio program in which he discussed Carlson’s findings. Facebook’s fact-checkers labeled this video “Partly false information” as well.
Facebook has admitted that it reduces the distribution of content that its fact-checkers deem false. It therefore prevented Glenn Beck’s 3,400,000 followers and Tucker Carlson’s 3,821,900 followers from viewing the posts discussing the security footage taken on January 6 in a way that was not distorted through the lens of the politburo-styled Jan. 6 Committee.
Secondhand Censorship Totals by Platform
In Q1 2023 Musk’s Twitter surpassed Facebook for the greatest total secondhand censorship effect after Facebook had previously dominated the 2022 secondhand censorship totals. For perspective, Facebook ended the year having harmed users 131,631,394 times, which was significantly higher than Twitter at 79,399,107 times.
Twitter withheld information from users through secondhand censorship a grand total of 30,570,980 times in the first quarter of 2023, according to CensorTrack.org data.
Twitter’s most substantial example of secondhand censorship involved the “Trans Day of Vengeance” discussed above. Not only did this subcategory of censorship hit Rep.Greene twice for a total secondhand censorship effect of 4,134,112, it also hit the New York Post for reporting about Twitter’s censorship on the topic, harming the newspaper’s 2,800,000 followers. On this topic alone, MRC Free Speech documented notable cases of Twitter’s censorship that prevented users from learning about the questionable “protest” that radical “transgender” activists had planned at least 14 million times.
A recent MRC Free Speech America study found that cases of censorship under the Musk regime are outpacing cases under the old regime. The secondhand censorship numbers support this as well. The 30,570,980 times that Twitter withheld information from users in the first quarter of 2023 exceeded all of Twitter’s single quarter numbers since MRC Free Speech America began tracking secondhand censorship numbers. For comparison, the worst quarter previously tallied for Twitter was Q3 of 2022, with secondhand censorship harming users 27,093,653 times during that quarter. The secondhand censorship effect under Musk’s leadership is demonstrably worse in 2023 after what seemed to be an initial improvement in Q4 of 2022, with secondhand censorship harming users 11,705,575 times.
Facebook users experienced a secondhand censorship total almost as high as Twitter, affecting users 30,488,953 times in the first quarter of 2023, according to data logged in the MRC Free Speech America CensorTrack.org database.
The most grievous case of censorship that spilled over into secondhand censorship on Facebook involved Tucker Carlson Tonight. Facebook censored the Tucker Carlson Tonight page at least four times in the first quarter, depriving at least 15,295,053 users of seeing content from an account they chose to follow. The platform seemed unwilling to let users who follow Carlson’s page make their own conclusions about his commentary.
All four cases involved Facebook fact-checking videos from Carlson’s primetime show on Fox News. Two of the cases involved Carlson’s review of previously unreleased footage from inside the United States Capitol building on January 6, 2021. A third case involved Carlson’s commentary on the origins of the COVID-19 virus, and the final case surrounded Carlson’s discussion about food shortages and the rising price of eggs.
The second worst case of Facebook’s first-quarter censorship resulting in secondhand censorship happened when Facebook fact-checked a FreedomWorks post, preventing its 4,400,000 followers from seeing a meme featuring the quote: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Facebook relied on a Reuters article, and suppressed the quote because the meme misattributed it to Abraham Lincoln. This level of nanny-state oversight strongly cuts against statements made by Big Tech overlords that their platforms support freedom of speech—apparently only speech that they approve of.
YouTube was the third worst violator in terms of the secondhand censorship effect in the first quarter of 2023. The platform kept information from users a total of 13,472,421 times in the first three months of this year.
YouTube censorship hit Project Veritas’s followers the most. MRC Free Speech America counted three separate times that the Google-owned video platform censored Project Veritas in the first quarter, harming users through secondhand censorship a total of 4,510,000 times.
The Q1 2023 Project Veritas YouTube censorship centered on its reporting regarding Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine. According to a purported screenshot of a document reportedly sent to YouTube employees, the platform objected to Project Veritas founder, then-CEO James O’Keefe’s statement in the undercover videos that “COVID vaccines are ineffective against virus variants,” despite specific platform policies removing prohibitions against such statements in an August 2022 update. The platform removed yet another video showing one of its reporters being served a search warrant for questioning a YouTube executive about why it censored the Pfizer video. YouTube also removed a video titled “Veritas Reporter Christian Harstock Interviews MI State Reps Seeking Answers to Viral Pfizer Videos.”
YouTube also set its sights on some popular pro-gun accounts in the beginning of 2023. YouTube’s ire in these instances seemed to target gun accessory-related content. MRC Free Speech America recorded four cases of such censorship amounting to at least 6,811,000 times users were harmed by having Second Amendment-related content kept from them.
Often lost in the Big Tech censorship discussion are the ripple effects of censorship—secondhand censorship. The users who are directly censored are certainly harmed, but so are all of their followers, and they deserve to have access to the content they subscribed to hear and view as well. Preventing users from seeing content on topics such as the “Trans Day of Vengeance,” the COVID-19 vaccines, elections and more cripples the ability of users to have a robust and honest debate on such issues. Even Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. noted that censorship is “a direct assault on our democracy.” He further explained that “without free speech, democracy just withers and dies,” while “democracy’s advantage is that through the free flow of information, the best policies can triumph in the marketplace of ideas.”
The longer that national policymakers wait to take action against the grave threat posed by Big Tech censorship, the more that our American republic and free speech are threatened.
MRC Free Speech America calls on the American public to push tech companies to end their authoritarian suppression of viewpoints.
For the purposes of this report, we examined the first quarter of 2023. MRC Free Speech America analyzed the censored accounts and aggregated the follower counts belonging to each person and group targeted by Big Tech during that three-month period. Beginning with this report, we will be using more comprehensive data than used previously in 2022. Comparisons to 2022 data in this report have been updated to use the same methodology for an accurate comparison.
MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris, MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Associate Editor Joseph Vasquez and MRC Graphic Designer Louie Berbert contributed to this report.
Conservatives are under attack. Contact your representatives and demand that Big Tech be held to account to mirror the First Amendment while providing transparency, clarity on so-called hate speech and equal footing for conservatives. If you have been censored, contact us using CensorTrack’s contact form, and help us hold Big Tech accountable.