ConWebWatch home
ConWebBlog: the weblog of ConWebWatch
Search and browse through the ConWebWatch archive
About ConWebWatch
Who's behind the news sites that ConWebWatch watches?
Letters to and from ConWebWatch
ConWebWatch Links
Buy books and more through ConWebWatch

The MRC's 'Secondhand Censorship' Scam

The Media Research Center invented a metric designed solely to generate wildly inflated "censorship" numbers to further the right-wing Big Tech victimhood narrative.

By Terry Krepel
Posted 3/17/2023

The Media Research Center's campaign to frame private companies enforcing their terms of service on its users as a diabolical campaign to "censor" right-wingers -- who, apparently, should be allowed to spread lies and misinformation unfettered -- has always been dishonest, but it has found a way to expand on that dishonesty, announced in a July 20 post by Brian Bradley and Gabriela Pariseau:
America is increasingly outraged by the manner in which radical Big Tech leftists are censoring conservative and Christian leaders and organizations on nearly every major social media platform.

But what is the secondhand effect of this censorship on consumers – the American people? How much information is being kept from the average social media user?

The answer is an astonishing amount, arguably more information than has ever been purposely withheld from the public in American history.

The Media Research Center's has identified and verified over 4,000 individual examples of censorship. For purposes of this study, we looked at only the first quarter of 2022 wherein 172 cases were identified. An analysis of the audiences of those individuals/organizations alone found that in that three-month period, there were no less than 144,301,713 times information was withheld from the American people.

This phenomenon is best thought of as “secondhand censorship.” Secondhand censorship is defined as the number of times that users on social media had information kept from them.

This, of course, is a bogus and meaningless metric. It simply takes an instance of purported "censorship" and multiplies that by the number of followers that person or organization has:

The MRC looked at seven platforms – Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Spotify – to calculate secondhand censorship’s impact.

MRC measured the effects of secondhand censorship by adding the number of followers each account had at the time of each censorship case recorded during the quarter.


MRC identified 172 individual cases of direct censorship logged in MRC Free Speech America’s CensorTrack database during the first quarter of 2022. CensorTrack has now logged a total of over 4,000 total cases of Big Tech’s direct censorship.

But when Big Tech companies censor an account or its posts, every one of the censored account’s followers are unable to see the perspectives of the targeted account, or the account’s posts are obscured such that they’re suppressed and more difficult to view. The consequences of this “secondhand censorship” are broad authoritarianism, mass thought-control and a restricted marketplace of ideas.

Bradley and Pariseau muddied things further by dishonestly classifying things that were not actually censored as "censorship," insisting that content filters that one must click through to access content is "censorship" even though the content itself is not "censored." There's other dishonesty too, as described in this section:

YouTube placed two content filters on a Fox News video of former Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Fox News host Laura Ingraham about the Ukraine War, as noted in a March 9 CensorTrack entry.

Gabbard said on The Ingraham Angle that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was reportedly open to engaging in negotiations to compromise with Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the war.

YouTube used content filters to chide Fox News subscribers, suggesting that the video “may be inappropriate,” and that the YouTube “community” had identified the video as “inappropriate or offensive.”

Secondhand censorship translated to Fox News’s 9,180,000 YouTube subscribers being prohibited from viewing potentially pivotal news The incident contributed to thwarting a consensus on a viable path out of the war from forming.

But Bradley and Pariseau offer no evidence that Gabbard's claim about alleged "compromise" was the reason YouTube put a content filter over the video (which merely requires a single click to access, no sane person's definition of "censorship"). It might have more to do with Gabbard -- a supporter of Russia and Vladimir Putin -- baselessly blaming the "military-industrial complex" and Hillary Clinton for the Russia-Ukraine war (even though Russia is the one that invaded Ukraine) and even more baselessly accusing U.S. leaders of lying to the American people about the situation there. Ingraham did not allow anyone to rebut Gabbard's views, and Ingraham heartily endorsed them.

Bradley and Pariseau were upset that Joe Rogan couldn't be as racist as he wanted to be, going to Bette Midler whataboutism route to do so:

Most race-related secondhand censorship during the first quarter came when Spotify removed approximately 70 episodes of Rogan’s podcast “The Joe Rogan Experience” in February. When the streaming platform removed those episodes, the effects of secondhand censorship cascaded across Rogan’s reported 11 million per-episode Spotify listeners.

Rogan’s past use of the N-word over the roughly 10-year course of his podcast reportedly ignited a furor across Spotify’s workforce. The comments even reportedly prodded Spotify CEO Daniel Ek into writing a memo to employees saying that the “hurtful” comments “do not represent the values of this company,” according to Axios.

Just after a video collage of Rogan’s use of the N-word came out, MRC found that leftist PatriotTakes, the group behind the video’s release, partnered with leftist SuperPAC MeidasTouch. MeidasTouch was partly funded by actress Bette Midler, who has a history of unhinged political behavior. She demonstrated this in a May 24 tweet that read, in part: “DON'T SAVE FETUSES ONLY TO HAVE THEM DIE AT SCHOOL BECAUSE YOU LOVE YOUR GUNS MORE THAN LIFE! FOR SHAME!!” This wasn’t censored, of course.

If you're defending offensive racism, you're losing. And if you're invoking Bette Midler -- who is not racist -- to further defend that racism, you're losing even more. Further, the duo are falsely blaming Spotify for the removal of the Rogan episodes using the N-word; actually, Rogan himself requested that they be removed, so Bradley should really be blaming Rogan for "censoring" himself.

Bradley and Pariseau also defended COVID vaccine misinformation and conspiracy theories:

Big Tech censorship of alternate viewpoints on COVID-19 and vaccinations raged ahead during the first quarter of 2022, even as cases declined and local governments loosened masking and vaccination mandates.

Tech platforms sought total control over information related to COVID-19’s origins, the usefulness of cloth masks in preventing the virus’s spread, efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines and local government policies on supposed COVID-19 prevention. This Big Tech totalitarianism meant that social media weren’t permitted to critically analyze pandemic-related information on a factual basis.

Twitter even censored a news report covering a peer-reviewed study about vaccine materials transforming into human DNA!

Just the News published a story March 3 reporting on a Swedish study that found the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine can convert to DNA inside human liver cells.

But readers of Just the News were blocked from learning about the study.

All 867,000 of Just the News founder John Solomon’s Twitter followers weren’t allowed to read a March 3 news story covering the Swedish study. Such censorship potentially jeopardized the ability of readers to seek appropriate medical care for COVID-19. The censored story’s subheadline also noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claimed “the vaccine” could not turn into DNA.

Those readers should be grateful the story was "censored" because it was full of misinformation. As an actual news operation found:

The study tested whether the vaccine’s mRNA could be converted to DNA, and found that this was the case in certain lab-altered liver cell lines under experimental conditions. It did not assess whether the vaccine alters the human genome, or what the effects of that would be, according to experts and the study authors. Experts say additional research is needed because the findings in the lab setting cannot be used to make inferences about what might happen in a human body.

The news operation went on to quote the study's authors as saying that “The results have in many cases been misinterpreted” and “there is no reason for anyone to change their decision to take the vaccine based on this study.”Bradley and Pariseau didn't mention that, meaning they're effectively endorsing falsehoods and misinformation -- also not a good look for so-called "media researchers."

The duo even tried to reframe clear anti-LGBT hate as "faith-based criticism":

Twitter censored Crisis Magazine Editor-in-Chief Eric Sammons’s faith-based criticism of secular norms in March, according to a March 29 CensorTrack entry.

"Just a reminder: Homosexual activity is a sin,” the head of the Catholic magazine tweeted. “Transgenderism is a mental illness. Abortion is murder."

Twitter locked Sammons’s account for a few days, claiming “hateful conduct,” until Sammons deleted the tweet.

Because this bogus "secondhand censorship" metric generates such an wildly and artificially huge number, the MRC can use it for propaganda purposes. And, indeed, MRC chief Brent Bozell ran to Fox News to tout them and hyperbolically declare that this has "never happened in human history," adding, "when was the last time you heard a liberal complain about being censored? It just doesn’t happen." He didn't mention that the MRC makes no effort to count them and simply runs up conservative numbers so has talking points he can spout on Fox News.

Bradley then went on the July 22 podcast of his boss, Tim Graham, to promote and rehash this bogus study. Even Graham admitted that Bradley was "coining a term" with "secondhand censorship," though he went on to do his own rehashing the Hunter Biden laptop saga as a prime example of "censorship," even though, as ConWebWatch documented, there was good reason not to trust the story when it came out because it was not independently verified and those pushing it were obvious pro-Trump partisans who could not be trusted. Graham agreed with Bradley's baseless assertion that the Ingraham-Gabbard video was "censored" (it wasn't) because she talked about trying to end the war in Ukraine.

Bradley actually defended Rogan's use of the N-word: "You might not like his use of the N-word, his referential use of the N-word -- I don't think he used it in a mean way at all -- but they couldn't consider the ideas he was putting forward in these podcasts because Big Tech just had to put the political clampdown because of political pressure from the left." Bradley didn't cite any examples of the "ideas" Rogan spent time on that didn't involve his use of the N-word or somehow negated his use of it. Graham responded that "the use of the N-word is allowed by rappers and other things on Spotify, so it breaks down to the usual line that you can't say it -- he can say it, you can't say it."

(The MRC played similar whataboutism with Rogan's embrace of the N-word when the story first broke in the middle of its defense of him.)

Graham worked up a little mock outrage that Rand Paul, "who's not just a senator but who's an actual medical doctor," was "censored" over COVID-related remarks. Bradley then laughably called Solomon "a longtime journalist, reliable journalist" (um, no, he's not) and insisted that the study was "an academic study" by "some medical professionals in some European country" -- but he hid the fact that Solomon's reporting on the study was misleading. Bradley then went on to portray Sammons' anti-LGBT hate as merely speaking "simple, embedded Christian concepts," and that "censoring" him "is really an assault on the country itself," to which Graham responded by arguing that a Twitter account purporting to be God but actually written by an atheist should be banned for alleged blasphemy.

Tierin-Rose Mandelburg also promoted the bogus numbers in her July 27 CensorTrack podcast.

Round 2

Bradley and Pariseau peddled that dishonest narrative -- and those ridiculous numbers -- again in an Aug. 16 post:

Big Tech sent a stark message to conservatives during the second quarter of this year that it will continue to fiercely protect President Joe Biden and censor viewpoints that differ from the left’s narrative on major political issues.

Throughout the first two quarters, MRC counted 309 total individual censorship cases that translated to no fewer than 195,251,589 times that Big Tech kept information from social media users through secondhand censorship.

Big Tech companies tirelessly worked to shackle the spread of content across several issue areas; most notably, elections, President Joe Biden and “transgenderism,” from April through June. This discriminatory information control was an attempt to strong-arm Americans to embrace leftist orthodoxy.


MRC defines secondhand censorship as the number of times that users on social media had information kept from them.

All this definition does is take an example of so-called "censorship" and multiply it by the number of followers that account has, generating those ridiculous and meaningless number. And what does the MRC think is disturbing "censortship"? Pointing out that a discredited film has been discredited:

The platform spiked an election-related post by Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro in May, with the help of its fact-checking partner PolitiFact, according to a May 10 CensorTrack entry. The “fact-checker” flagged a Daily Wire article that cited political commentator Dinesh D’Souza ’s documentary “2000 Mules” calling the article “partly false,” as “the same information was checked in another post by independent fact-checkers.” The movie examined voter fraud in the 2020 election by using cell phones’ geolocation data. The secondhand censorship effect of the fact-check meant that Shapiro’s 8.5 million Facebook followers couldn’t see information linking potential voter fraud to the 2020 election.
Of course, "2000 Mules" has been repeatedly discredited, particularly on its claims about geolocation data. The MRC's CensorTrack database essentially acted as a PR agent for D'Souza's film, complaining that "The fact-checker also quoted several experts who said that D'Souza and True the Vote's evidence was incredible because geolocation data can be imprecise. But the fact-checker ignored the particular and targeted parameters for how the data was used in an investigation." CensorTrack didn't explain why readers of Shapiro's post shouldn't know that the film is discredited. One might call that, you know, "censorship."

Note that Bradley and Pariseau put "transgenderism" in scare quotes. They continued to do so in complaining that transphobic hate was being called out:

MRC counted 25 individual cases of censorship of content critical of so-called “transgenderism” in the second quarter. Secondhand censorship affected the followers of these accounts 8,111,001 times during the quarter.

Twitter perpetrated the most substantial suppression of so-called “transgender”-related content in the second quarter in June. The platform removed a post by renowned psychologist Jordan Peterson when he used “transgender” actor Elliot Page’s given name, Ellen Page.

Secondhand censorship affected Peterson’s followers 2,800,000 times.

“Remember when pride was a sin? And Ellen Page just had her breasts removed by a criminal physician,” Peterson purportedly tweeted according to screenshots tweeted by his daughter Mikhaila Peterson. Twitter apparently deemed the post to violate its rules against “hateful conduct.”

Peterson is a "renowned psychiatrist"? That's news to us -- most people see him as a guy trying to justify right-wing anti-"woke" rage. Bradley and Pariseau didn't explain why it's OK to maliciously deadname a transgender person or falsely smear the doctor who operated on him as "criminal" -- and they certainly didn't explain their aggressive use of scare quotes.

Bradley and Pariseau concluded by ranting that "MRC continues to call on the American public to push tech companies to end their authoritarian suppression of opposing viewpoints." They didn't explain why hate and lies should be treated as legitimate "opposing viewpoints" or why exposing them while limiting their spread is "censorship."

Round 3

For the third try at peddling this meaningless narrative, the authors hid behind anonymity -- no MRC employee would apparently put his or her name on it, so it's credited only to "NB Staff" -- for its latest attempt to peddle these bogus statistics in a Nov. 18 post:

As the 2022 midterm elections approached, social media platforms aggressively championed political ideas benefiting left-wing candidates while silencing dissenting opinions that don’t fit the liberal worldview in the third quarter.

During the first three quarters of 2022, MRC Free Speech America counted a total of 435 individual censorship cases that translated to no fewer than 251,399,696 times that Big Tech kept information from social media users through secondhand censorship.

Platforms harshly squeezed the issues of “transgenderism,” COVID-19 and elections through their bloated censorship operations, leading to millions of users being affected by secondhand censorship during the third quarter.

Twitter was the platform that engaged in the most secondhand censorship during 2022’s third quarter. It kept information from its users 15,932,343 times.

As before, the complaints were about right-wing hate and misinformation being "censored." Among examples provided were right-wing podcaster (and militia enthusiast) Tim Pool, whose account was suspended after he posted "a picture of adults showing sexual content to children 'grooming,'" huffing that "That pro-debauchery muzzling meant that Pool’s 1,371,592 estimated Twitter followers could not see his post championing the protection of children’s innocence." There was also this:

The largest case of COVID-19 censorship by far came in September when YouTube removed a video by actor and social media influencer Russell Brand who said that he mistakenly stated the FDA had approved Ivermectin to treat COVID-19.

Brand said that the video YouTube reportedly removed discussed a notice on the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website under its "COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines, Antiviral Therapy" page that listed Ivermectin. The page noted: "Ivermectin is an anti-parasitic drug that is being evaluated to treat COVID-19."

According to Brand, he mistakenly said that the notice indicated the NIH had approved Ivermectin for use in treating COVID-19. He later recorded an apology video detailing the mistake. YouTube removed the original video, citing a violation of its “medical misinformation policy,” according to screenshots Brand shared in his explanation video.

YouTube’s discriminatory action meant that information was kept from Brand’s 5,970,000 followers through secondhand censorship.

YouTube’s censorship conveys that the platform, like much of the left, restricts the possibility of redemption for content creators it disagrees with.

The anonymous writer didn't explain why YouTube had no right to remove false health information. Instead, the anonymous writer pompously concluded:

Secondhand censorship is an extensive, enduring phenomenon around the world.

The ripple effects of censorship influence world politics and arouse fear that deters people from sharing perspectives.

The end result of Big Tech’s authoritarian and propagandistic censorship practices is an oligopoly that effectively marginalizes honest viewpoints that Big Tech disagrees with.

The onus is on the American people and global public to call on tech companies to provide transparency, clarify their policies on so-called “hate speech,” give equal footing to conservatives and mirror the First Amendment.

The future of free speech is at stake.

Why is there no onus on right-wingers to not spread hate and lies? That's never explained.

Year-end roundup

The MRC pushed that bogus narrative again in an anonymously written Jan. 25 post:

Big Tech is playing games with speech. Its primary concern is with neutralizing conservative influence online. It does this by preventing users from hearing or seeing a message that the left disagrees with.

“Big Tech kept information from users on social media over 275 million times last year by blocking influential conservative voices. All users are left with is leftist-approved propaganda,” said Media Research Center President Brent Bozell. “This is secondhand censorship.”

Even new Twitter owner Elon Musk stated that witter’s new policy provides “freedom of speech,” but not “freedom of reach,” a that has been espoused by leftists for several years. The secondhand censorship numbers document that loss of reach — the real harm that results from Big Tech censorship.

“Unfortunately, Musk’s comments about Twitter policy being ‘freedom of speech, but not freedom of reach’ only underscores the true goal of totalitarian censors on the left,” noted MRC Free Speech America & MRC Business Director Michael Morris. “Censors seek to prevent social media users that might otherwise be influenced from seeing a message that leftists disagree with. That is secondhand censorship, and conservatives can’t sit idly by and allow it to happen.”

Using our exclusive database, MRC Free Speech America documented 517 cases of Big Tech censorship in 2022. That censorship translated to no fewer than 275,396,336 times that platforms harmed social media users by keeping information from them through secondhand censorship.

The MRC then went on to hide inconvenient facts about the so-called victims of that "secondhand censorship." For example:

Big Tech’s suppressive information practices have worked in tandem with harmful public policy measures that contributed to real-world harm.

“Current lockdown policies are producing devastating effects on short and long-term public health,” reads The Great Barrington Declaration. The document, which has over 936,000 signatories including public health experts and medical practitioners, calls out the negative health impacts of COVID-19 lockdown measures. “The results (to name a few) include lower childhood vaccination rates, worsening cardiovascular disease outcomes, fewer cancer screenings and deteriorating mental health – leading to greater excess mortality in years to come, with the working class and younger members of society carrying the heaviest burden. Keeping students out of school is a grave injustice.”

Facebook censored the declaration in February 2021. A Twitter Files release also confirmed that Twitter censored individuals associated with the declaration. But Facebook and Twitter were not alone. Other platforms such as Reddit and Google also censored the declaration.

But the anonymous MRC writer censored the fact that the Great Barrington Declaration also called for dangerous herd immunity at a time when thousands of people were dying of COVID daily and no vaccines were yet available.

The MRC also bizarrely complained that election falsehoods were blocked:

Facebook, in particular, was very busy censoring election-related content in the month of May, well in advance of the November 2022 midterm elections.

The platform targeted an election-related post by Daily Wire Editor Emeritus Ben Shapiro in November, with the help of its fact-checking partner PolitiFact, as documented in a May 10 entry. The “fact-checker” flagged a Daily Wire article that cited political commentator Dinesh D’Souza’s documentary “2000 Mules.” Facebook applied a notice to the post that claimed it was “partly false.” The notice also stated that “the same information was checked in another post by independent fact-checkers.” The notice referred to a PolitiFact article about the documentary that claimed it used a “faulty premise.” The movie documentary examined voter fraud in the 2020 election by using cell phones’ geolocation data.

The secondhand censorship effect of the fact-check harmed Shapiro’s 8.5 million Facebook followers because they weren’t allowed to see information linking potential voter fraud to the 2020 election.

The anonymous MRC writer didn't explain why Shapiro should have been allowed to spread lies from a discredited film. To the contrary, Shapiro should be glad that actual fact-checkers did what he wouldn't and stopped him for spreading those lies. Meanwhile, the MRC went on to privilege more lies:

Another substantial censorship act came when both Meta platforms — Facebook and Instagram — de-platformed or unpublished the pages of the liberal Robert F. Kennedy-led group Children’s Health Defense in August at the same time, and without warning.

A screenshot shared by Children’s Health Defense indicated that both Facebook and Instagram accused the group of sharing “false information about COVID-19,” as noted in MRC Free Speech America’s database. Children’s Health Defense said that, “more than half a million followers have been denied access to truthful information.” Facebook, meanwhile, claimed the group violated its “Community Standards on misinformation that could cause phyical harm."

Children’s Health Defense had 327,480 Instagram followers and 174,266 Facebook followers at the respective times of censorship. The collective secondhand censorship effect of this suppression amounted to 501,746 times that Big Tech harmed users by hiding COVID-19 perspectives from users.

The MRC writer censored the fact that Children's Health Defense is a bunch of anti-vaxxer conspiracy theorists with a record of spreading misinformation, and nobody considers Robert F. Kennedy Jr. a real "liberal," as the writer wants us to believe. And, no, the writers makes no argument that lies should be allowed to spread unchecked on social media. Instead, the MRC pompously concluded:

Without being able to read opinions from both sides of an issue, we do not enjoy a free society.

The fundamental, God-given right to free speech must be protected.

Our freedom is at stake.

So spreading lies and misinformation is a "fundamental, God-given right" now? Since when? Meanwhile, the MRC clearly believes that there is no freedom of speech for those who call out lies and misinformation spread by right-wingers.

Send this page to:

Bookmark and Share
The latest from

In Association with
Support This Site

home | letters | archive | about | primer | links | shop
This site © Copyright 2000-2023 Terry Krepel