Supporters of a controversial new anti-abortion film are having it out with Twitter, after a series of mishaps on its opening weekend have led to accusations of censorship.
“What’s up, Twitter?” read a tweet posted by the makers of the faith-based drama, Unplanned, which had a surprisingly strong $6.1 million debut over the weekend. “Since when did a neutral social media platform become a censor & suppressor of human rights?”
Weekend troubles with the social media platform included a temporary suspension of the film’s account, followed by an error that didn’t allow Twitter users to follow it. The film and its fans are outraged, accusing Twitter of censorship.
It's true. What's up, Twitter? Since when did a neutral social media platform become a censor & suppressor of human rights? https://t.co/GlZtj4XGUz— UnplannedMovie (@UnplannedMovie) April 1, 2019
Conservative pundits and other Twitter users alike were quick to point out the issues, accusing the platform of intentionally tampering with the account, and even calling out Twitter founder Jack Dorsey through tagged posts.
Users were further outraged when, after the suspended Unplanned account was reinstated, the issues continued. According to videos posted on Twitter, frustrated users who had been following the account refreshed their page only to find they were no longer Unplanned followers.
“No matter how many times you follow @UnplannedMovie, it comes right off,” tweeted one disgruntled user. “No one in world believes this was an accident.”
But a spokesperson from Twitter tells Yahoo Lifestyle that the Unplanned account “was mistakenly caught in our automated systems for ban evasion” after an account linked to it violated the Twitter rules. Twitter adds that it “reinstated the account as soon as it was brought to our attention.”
As for the accusations of censoring the film’s controversial anti-abortion message, a Twitter statement read: “We enforce our rules dispassionately and do not engage in so-called shadow banning [stealthily or partially banning content].”
The Pure Flix film, about former Planned Parenthood director turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson, was released in theaters on Friday, March 29. A day later is when its Twitter account was temporarily suspended “without cause,” say filmmakers, and the additional difficulties followed.
There have been inconsistencies when it comes to the details of how many followers were lost. According to Lila Rose, the founder and President of pro-life group Live Action, the movie’s page at one point dropped from 170K followers to 25.5K. And while Fox News reported that the account lost 50K followers after it was reinstated, the account had only a little over 7K followers when it was suspended, according to a screen shot.
A spokesperson from Twitter tells Yahoo Lifestyle that it is “not hiding follower counts or disallowing certain people from following,” adding that it takes time for accounts to fully replenish after being reinstated.
Ashley Bratcher, the actress who plays Abby Johnson in Unplanned, claims that even her own account unfollowed the film’s. “I think it’s outrageous, I’ve never experienced anything like this in my life. I couldn’t even follow my own movie,” Brachter said Monday on Fox & Friends. “I don’t know of any examples of this happening to more liberal accounts.”
Abby Johnson, the woman who inspired the film, also noted the “irony” that she couldn’t follow the Twitter account of her own film.
Now, high-profile conservatives, including Ben Shapiro, are rushing to the film’s defense. Donald Trump Jr. tweeted, “Yet another example of the Social Media Masters only letting people see what they want them to see and believe. The censorship and the bias must stop!!”
Yet another example of the Social Media Masters only letting people see what they want them to see and believe.— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) April 1, 2019
The censorship and the bias must stop!!! https://t.co/QESRltiMJZ
Brachter said she was humbled by the outpouring of support the film received online. “The response from people on Twitter has been pretty incredible as well as their response to the movie in general. People are really speaking out for the movie,” she said on Fox & Friends.
Support for the film has also led to skyrocketing Twitter followers, now totaling more than 258K. The filmmakers are reportedly now lobbying to have a special airing of the film at the White House, followed by a tweet from Vice President Mike Pence supporting the film and its message about the “sanctity of life.”
So good to see movie theaters across the country showing @UnplannedMovie -- a deeply inspiring new pro-life film based on the best-selling book by @AbbyJohnson. More & more Americans are embracing the sanctity of life because of powerful stories like this one. #Unplanned— Vice President Mike Pence (@VP) April 1, 2019
The film had already encountered difficulties due to its anti-abortion message. Filmmakers unsuccessfully fought the ‘R’ rating it eventually received, while several television networks declined to show ads for the film, reports The Hollywood Reporter.
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