In a special interview, Thursday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – Leahy was joined on the newsmakers line by The Epoch Times United States editor Stephen Gregory.
During the third hour, Gregory elaborated on the well-known situation that happened last month regarding Facebook’s false allegations. Facebook has denied the paper advertising viability on disproved charges of “coordinated inauthentic behavior” with a group called BL. Gregory said The Epoch Times has been unsuccessful in reaching people at Facebook to discuss the accusations and have since suffered irreparable damage to their reputation.
Leahy: The Epoch Times is one of the fastest-growing conservative news outlets in the country. We’re joined now by the United States editor and chief of The Epoch Times, Stephen Gregory. Good morning Stephen.
Gregory: Good morning. It’s great to be with you.
Leahy: So we wanted to talk to you about Facebook. And they have been and we’ve experienced this and you have been wrongfully censoring and aligning independent media outlets with false, easily disproved stories. Tell us the interaction Epoch Times has had with Facebook.
Gregory: Well, we are a big user of Facebook. We have 60-80 million followers on our main pages of Facebook. So we are a big client of Facebook services. But, in July of last year Facebook without explanation stopped us from being able to advertise on Facebook.
And then on December 20, 2019, Facebook issued a statement that accused The Epoch Times of being linked to what they call “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” There is a website called The BL. The BL stands for the beauty of life. Facebook de-platformed BL.
Because they accused BL of deceitful behavior. We have nothing to say about that. We don’t know what the BL’s actions have or haven’t been. But they accused us of being linked to the BL’s activity and this is simply false. And it’s also a very vague and damaging charge.
I mean without providing any evidence at all, they were suggesting that we were responsible for the BL’s activity. And they issued an embargoed release and by noon on the 20th half a dozen major news outlets had published this story claiming that we were linked to this activity.
And somewhat beyond what Facebook said saying we were responsible for this activity. So this damaged our good name. I wanted to appear on your show and speak directly to your readers to have a chance to tell our story so people know what’s really going on.
Leahy: So what recourse do you have with Facebook on this?
Gregory: Well, what recourse we have is to call Facebook out and ask them to act like a responsible corporate citizen. Our lawyers have said that it’s not a good strategy for us to sue them. It’s very difficult to win that kind of suit. It would be very expensive and you know we would burn our bridges with Facebook in doing so.
Facebook could have cleared all this up with a ten-minute phone conversation with us. And the problem here is that they have refused to communicate with us. We are a huge client of Facebook. They make a lot of money from our activities. There’s nobody we can call and talk to discuss our relationship
Leahy: Isn’t that Campbell Brown’s job? Reporting to Mark Zuckerberg?
Gregory: I don’t know what her role is. I’ve never spoken to Ms. Brown. So, we have tried various ways to communicate with Facebook to reach out to them, and we get no response.
Leahy: It’s a little impenetrable. Well here’s the thing about this. Occasionally, we believe we see throttling of our efforts from them sometimes, and we don’t know why. But we try to communicate with them, and we get the same response. We might put a call into Campbell Brown about our situation. If she talks to us I’ll give her your number and see if she calls. (Laughter)
Gregory: Every avenue is helpful. We want Facebook to issue a statement setting the record straight. Making it clear that we are not linked to the actions they accuse the BL of. We want Facebook to restore our ability to advertise and provide us with a representative that we can discuss these issues with. They seem like very simple demands on our part.
Leahy: We know, I’ll use this line I’ve used a couple of times to kind of describe the situation. When the phone didn’t ring we knew it was Campbell Brown of Facebook, right? (Laughter)
Gregory: Well, we have people who are speaking out for us. Representative Jim Banks of Indiana recently sent Mark Zuckerberg a letter on our behalf. And let me just quote a paragraph at the end of his letter. “Mr. Zuckerberg, I take the threat posed by China extremely seriously. The United States cannot afford to have domestic companies pay the Chinese communist party’s efforts to censor dissenting viewpoints. Congress will not sit by while Facebook hinders The Epoch Times efforts to overcome Chinese persecution.”
Leahy: Indiana’s Jim Banks. And Carol Swain who’s a contributor to Epoch Times is in the studio with us. She’s an all-star panelist every Thursday on The Tennessee Star Report. She has a question for you.
Swain: Well, I have a comment more or less. It seems to me that the targeting of The Epoch Times also coincides with criticisms about the newspaper supporting President Trump. And what do you think about the conservatism of the newspaper being part of why it’s being targeted by Facebook?
Gregory: Well, on a different issue that is what Jim Banks is asserting. There is a newspaper in Canada called ‘The Post Millennial, which also made the same charge Carol. They recently published an article that says we’re the latest victim of what appears to be the “cybergagging” of those with different political viewpoints.
I can’t say with certainty what Facebook’s motives are. But there have been a lot of outlets that feel they have been treated unfairly because they are a conservative or their editorial is pro-Trump. In our case is the additional issue of our reporting on Chinese companies.
Leahy: Exactly. And Stephen Gregory, US editor, and chief for The Epoch Times. Will you come back again?
Gregory: I’d love to Michael.
Listen to the third hour:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Stephen Gregory” by Stephen Gregory.