Senate Committee To Probe Twitter’s Treatment Of Anti-Abortion Movie ‘Unplanned’
Sen. Ted Cruz has announced that a committee he chairs will hold a hearing to investigate whether Twitter and other social media are seeking to censor conservative speech — and one prime topic of conversation in the hearing will be the anti-abortion film “Unplanned.”
The film, which was released March 29, takes a critical look at Planned Parenthood. “As one of the youngest Planned Parenthood clinic directors in the nation, Abby Johnson was involved in upwards of 22,000 abortions and counseled countless women on their reproductive choices,” movie review site Rotten Tomatoes says in a brief description of the film. “Her passion surrounding a woman’s right to choose led her to become a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, fighting to enact legislation for the cause she so deeply believed in. Until the day she saw something that changed everything.”
Shortly before the movie came out, Twitter briefly suspended its page.
Still waiting for an explanation as to why @Twitter inexplicably suspended our account. I think we all know why. Perhaps it's because we are moving the needle, making a difference and changing hearts and minds with #UnPlannedMovie@LiveAction https://t.co/RvobjpflcF
— UnplannedMovie (@UnplannedMovie) March 30, 2019
“According to Twitter, Unplanned was not suspended on purpose, but rather was linked to another account that had violated Twitter’s rules,” the Hollywood Reporter wrote. The account was restored.
Cruz said the hearing before the Judicial Committee’s Subcommittee on the Constitution will be held on Wednesday and has been titled “Stifling Free Speech: Technology Censorship and the Public Discourse. “Insiders say executives from Twitter, Facebook and Google have been asked to testify, as has Chuck Konzelman, the co-writer and co-director of Unplanned,” the Reporter wrote.
When it comes to Unplanned, “The ridicule of the mainstream media and Hollywood is to be expected,” Cruz told The Hollywood Reporter. “But big tech’s attempted censorship of (Johnson’s) story during it’s opening weekend is deeply troubling and revealing. I have repeatedly asked tech companies for basic data on how many voices on their social platforms are silenced and to what extent it is politically targeted. I intend to keep asking these questions, and hold them accountable.”
As far as I’m concerned, it’s part of a systematic bias against conservative media,” added Konzelman. “We were on Twitter for nine months and an error occurred on opening weekend? That’s not much fun. It’s the film’s theatrical debut. Couldn’t they check their facts a little bit?”
Despite huge forces aligned against it, “Unplanned” pulled in big money in its opening weekend. The picture hauled in $6.1 million from 1,059 theaters, the Reporter wrote. That’s a bit more than the movie cost to make — just $6 million. And “Unplanned” pulled in an average of $5,770 per theater, topping “Captain Marvel” by about $650 per screen, Box Office Mojo reported. For the record, the latest super-hero movie cost nearly $150 million to make.
The movie was hit with an R rating, which generally reduces viewership, especially for a movie about abortion. Some networks have used that rating as a excuse not to run ads. “Up TV cited the R rating when it also rejected the commercial, as did several Christian radio channels that also refused to air ads for Unplanned,” the Reporter said, noting that Lifetime, Hallmark Channel, HGTV and “several other cable networks” also refused to run ads for the movie, the Hollywood Reporter wrote last month.
Lifetime, for example, told the film’s marketers that they declined to air the commercial due to the “sensitive nature of the film,” the ad buyers tell The Hollywood Reporter. The marketers though, note that the network — which is owned by A&E Networks, a joint venture of Walt Disney and Hearst Communications — previously promoted an interview with Scarlett Johansson where she pitches Planned Parenthood.
The Travel Channel, Cooking Channel, HGTV and Food Network, each of which are owned by Discovery, also refused to sell ad time for Unplanned due to the “sensitive nature” of the movie, say those who tried buying air time.
Other networks that refused to advertise the movie include the Hallmark Channel and USA Network, the latter of which is owned by NBCUniversal.
“We were looking to spend money, but they didn’t want to get involved,” said John Sullivan, a producer of Unplanned. THR reached out to all of the networks; Lifetime declined to comment while the rest did not respond.
“Most of the networks didn’t go into detail beyond citing the subject matter of the film and that they didn’t want to get into politics. But we don’t believe we’re in the political category,” said Joe Knopp, an Unplanned producer.
Meanwhile, the Twitter account of “Unplanned” has exploded. It had a mere 6,000 followers before it was suspended by Twitter, but quickly rocketed up to 352,000 followers on the social media platform — while Planned Parenthood has 260,000.
"The pro-life film “Unplanned” has now surpassed Planned Parenthood in followers on Twitter despite the platform censoring and restricting them" – Mindy
— UnplannedMovie (@UnplannedMovie) April 1, 2019