Why is Facebook censoring stories about how BLM used donations to buy a $6 million house?

When George Floyd, an unarmed black man, was killed by Minneapolis police in May 2020, donations poured in for Black Lives Matter (BLM) from people who believed they would fund racial justice initiatives and help ensure that cops Bad actors would finally be held accountable for their violent acts.

Certainly some of the gifts did go to that. But $6 million of that went to pay for a 6,500-square-foot house in Southern California, complete with a pool and a bungalow.

Worse still, when the New York Post reported on the organizational misdeeds of Black Lives Matter, Facebook censorship the story. Facebook owner Meta called the content “abusive”.

In October 2020, Black Lives Matter received $66.5 million from generous donors. Later that same month, a man named Dyane Pascall — the CFO of BLM co-founder Patrisse Cullors’ consulting firm — bought the $6 million home. “Pascall transferred ownership of the home to a Delaware-based LLC by the law firm Perkins Coie,” reports Sean Campbell at Spywhich “ensured that the ultimate identity of the new owner of the property was not disclosed to the public”.

Since then, the raison d’être of the house is no longer clear. It serves as something of a safe place – giving high-ranking members of the organization a place to sleep when they need it – but also a place to save content to post on social media, both for the BLM account and for Cullors’ own projects. (like a peach cobbler cooking video, notes Spy).

More from Campbell:

On March 30, I asked the organization about the house, known internally as “Campus”. Afterwards, executives circulated an internal strategy memo with possible responses, ranging from “Can we kill the story?” to “Our angle – must be to deflate ownership of ownership.” The memo includes bullet points explaining that “Campus is part of the cultural arm of the organization – potentially as a ‘house of influence,’ where abolition+-based content is produced by artists and creatives.” Another bullet is titled “990 Accounting/Amendments” and reads in part: “need to first make sure it’s legally acceptable to use as we plan to use it”. The memo also describes the property as a “safe haven” for leaders whose safety has been threatened. The two notions – that the house is both a confidential refuge and a place of dissemination to the widest possible audience – are somewhat in tension. The memo notes: “Holes in security history: use in public YouTube videos.”

None of this is technically illegal, but it’s all misguided if your goal is to ensure that donors have confidence that their money will be used to advance racial justice, not for the founders’ personal enrichment. And these reports, of the two Spy and the New York Post, are extremely damning for an organization whose leaders have already come under scrutiny for extravagant spending. Posh Cullors real estate totaling at least $3.2 million has been screened New York Post piece that ended up being censored by Facebook, unable to be shared on the platform.

It’s not the first time that Job ran against the overlords of Facebook. In February 2020, the publication published one of the first articles introducing the theory to the American public that the coronavirus may have been the result of a lab leak – a theory that became popular in May 2021, with The New York Times, the new yorkerand Atlantic publishing articles that began to take the theory seriously and which, months later, have still not been discredited.

Facebook’s fact checkers somehow considered the Job‘s reports false, but overturned ban on sharing information about man-made lab leaks in… May 2021.

And, in October 2020, after the Job published a report on Hunter Biden’s laptop, Twitter suspended the post’s account while Facebook took steps to limit the reach of the article. Just last month, The New York Times confirmed that the initial report had its own story on the Biden laptop. (Former Chief Jack Dorsey commented in November 2020 that Twitter had erred in its decision and reiterated its expansive commitment to free speech principles during congressional hearings months later, though Twitter has still the subject of an ongoing content moderation controversy.)

It is not only that such censorship is wrong in principle (it is!), but also that censors are often wrong and clumsy when they try to judge what is right and wrong. Private companies like Twitter and Facebook/Meta have every right to decide their own content moderation policies, but it’s not hard to notice patterns in who and what they choose to suppress. It’s not always that the information is incorrect, just that the reporting is embarrassing to favored political causes or complicating a mainstream narrative.

It’s unclear why an opulent 6,500 square foot $6 million mansion is needed to end police brutality and bring racial justice to black Americans. It’s even harder to understand why Facebook would want to hide this information from interested users, unless it sees its role as mere interference for political allies, hiding credible journalism when it overwhelms them.