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Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy revealed on Wednesday that he had been locked out of his LinkedIn account over opinions he expressed about climate activism and the Biden administration’s policies with respect to China, raising concerns that social media companies are attempting to control the narrative in the upcoming election cycle.
Ramaswamy, a former pharmaceutical entrepreneur who unexpectedly entered the presidential contest earlier this year, shared screenshots of an email he received from LinkedIn accusing him of “misinformation, hate speech, violence,” and other breaches of the platform’s user agreement.
“If they can do it to me, they can really do it to anybody,” Ramaswamy said in a video statement. “These aren’t really the actions of private companies. These are so-called privately held companies, or publicly traded private companies, that are doing the work of the government through the backdoor: silencing speech that the government would never dare to censor.”
The email from LinkedIn added that the posts constituted “misleading or inaccurate information.” One status from Ramaswamy referenced by LinkedIn asserted that the Chinese Communist Party has been “playing the Biden administration like a Chinese mandolin” and “weaponized the ‘woke pandemic’ to stay one step ahead of us.” Another post contended that the “climate religion and its apostles in the ESG movement” would be opposed to shifting oil production away from the United States and toward Russia and China if they did not “have a different objective,” while a third said that “fossil fuels are a requirement for human prosperity.”
Ramaswamy added that the move from LinkedIn, which is owned by Microsoft, is “even more dangerous than direct government censorship in many ways, because it is a hybrid of corporate power and state power together, doing what neither one of them could do on their own.”
LinkedIn recently shuttered a Chinese career platform but continues to hire employees in the communist nation. The firm also faced backlash last month for implementing features that let recruiters filter job candidates by race, sex, and other demographic characteristics.
Republican lawmakers, including presidential contenders, have long been subjected to social media censorship. Former President Donald Trump, currently considered a frontrunner in the Republican primary race alongside Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, was suspended from YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter after the January 6 protests at the Capitol Building, although the platforms have more recently restored access to his accounts.
Technology companies and social media platforms have drawn backlash in recent years for censoring information critical of the federal response to the pandemic and the efficacy of public health mandates, as well as content interpreted by executives to be hateful or violent in nature. Several installments of the Twitter Files, a set of internal documents which new Twitter owner Elon Musk provided to investigative journalists, indicated that former executives worked with federal officials to restrict the advancement of certain claims, as well as leveraged shadow bans and suspensions against conservative and moderate users.
Some prominent social media companies have openly admitted to maintaining censorship operations. TikTok revealed last month that the firm, controlled by Chinese technology company ByteDance, hires “tens of thousands” of employees dedicated to content moderation. The platform has emerged as the most popular social media site for American youth.