California senator wants video of him being shoved scrubbed from the internet

Facebook says the video doesn't violate its rules.


A Democratic senator is putting pressure on Facebook to exercise stricter rules and censor a video of an incident involving an activist and himself.

During the incident that happened in Sacramento, Austin Bennet, an anti-vaccine activist, approached Senator Richard Pan from behind and shoved him.

While doing this, Bennett – who received a misdemeanor battery citation and was then released – recorded and streamed the confrontation live on Facebook.

Pan's 2015 bill aiming to introduce stricter rules regarding vaccination of schoolchildren in California was the reason Bennett confronted him, but now the senator is also at odds with Facebook who are refusing to classify shoving somebody as an act violent enough to warrant the video being removed.

However, Pan took his grievance with the social media platform to the US Senate on Thursday, accusing Facebook of “deliberately giving a platform to this violence, and perhaps inciting another person to do the same, maybe even up the ante.”

But Facebook is saying that its community standards have not been overstepped. A spokesperson confirmed this, revealing also that the company conducted “a thorough investigation” but did not find Bennett's video to be offending.

Clarifying its stance further in an email to Pan, Facebook said its standards of what's not allowed on the platform don't include pushing, as it's “low severity violence.” The review of the video also found that the activist's comments uttered during the incident didn't constitute for a direct threat against the senator.

It may not be news to many people that social media giants create “echo chambers” where users “rile each other up” – or why and how they these companies do it – but speaking in the Senate, Pan cited this particular problem with the platforms – as it relates to the incident.

He also complained that social media companies are not treated like publishers, and cannot be held legally liable for the content they host, as publishers are.

Beside championing more stringent rules in California on the vaccination issue, Pan last year also tried to push through a bill that would have had California's attorney general instruct social media giants to “fight misinformation” – effectively, bringing about the long clamored for government regulation of online platforms.

This idea fell through, and at least for now, Pan is not planning on new bills that would force the likes of Facebook to act on “violent rhetoric.”


Didi Rankovic

Didi Rankovich is an experienced online journalist, editor, and translator, with a career spanning over ten years writing for major a English-language website in Serbia, and previously working as translator for international organizations and peacekeepers in the Balkans. Rankovich is passionate about free and open source tech and is a head contributor for Reclaim The Net, focusing on lead stories. [email protected]
Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!