Twitter has ended a standoff with Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn one day after taking down advertisements containing her Senate campaign announcement video, in which she bragged about fighting “the sale of baby body parts.”
In a statement to Gizmodo, a Twitter spokesperson explained the original call was made on the basis of its advertising moderation policy, rather than violations of its more general terms of service. The site said that it potentially overstepped, however, by applying that standard to a political ad.
“Our ads policies strive to balance protecting our users from potentially distressing content while allowing our advertisers to communicate their messages,” the spokesperson wrote. “Nowhere is this more difficult than in the realm of political advertising and the highly charged issues that are often addressed therein.”
“After further review, we have made the decision to allow the content in question from Rep. Blackburn’s campaign ad to be promoted on our ads platform,” the spokesperson added. “While we initially determined that a small portion of the video used potentially inflammatory language, after reconsidering the ad in the context of the entire message, we believe that there is room to refine our policies around these issues.”
It’s easy to see why Twitter might have gotten antsy about the ad. After former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina brought up conspiracy theories that reproductive health provider Planned Parenthood was engaged in the illegal sale of fetal organs from abortions in 2015—a claim rebuked by both numerous state investigations and the medical profession—a far-right gunman descended upon one of the organization’s clinics in Colorado, killing three people and wounding a score of others.
Yet Blackburn gleefully postured herself as censored by the site, even though the ban was never related to her ability to post the video, just purchase promotions through Twitter. Her account posted numerous tweets suggesting Silicon Valley had declared war on her campaign:
As Recode noted, it’s not the first time Twitter has wandered into the awkward position of potential censor for content that stops short of violent threats or harassment. It’s banned some people like neo-Nazi troll farmer Milo Yiannopoulos for life, as well as prevented then-candidate Donald Trump from promoting a #CrookedHillary hashtag using its ad service. Twitter has also linked at least 200 accounts to Russians who were promoting political ads on Facebook before the 2016 elections, which it said would result in changes to the way it vets some content.