Austin Petersen is suspended from Facebook for 30 days over the content of a Facebook Live video. Petersen is an Independence Republican seeking to unseat Missouri’s Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill next year. In the video, which has since been removed from the social media platform, Petersen talks about a gun raffle for his Senatorial campaign in addition to discussing McCaskill’s support for a weapons ban.
His campaign page is still active. Petersen tells Reason Magazine that he signed out of his personal account on Facebook, an account for Austin Wade, on all devices last week, and when he signed back in, he received a message from Facebook saying he was banned for 30 days. His personal account, under the name Austin Wade, still appears on Facebook, but the suspension limited his ability to post to campaign-related Facebook pages he administers from his personal account. Petersen says some paid advertising for the AR-15 raffle remain on the social media site.
Petersen penned an open, personal letter to Facebook’s co-founder and CEO, Mark Zuckerberg,
“I’ve been following with interest your recent statements defending Facebook as an unbiased platform “for all ideas.” I hope that’s really true. However, blocking a candidate for the United States Senate for exercising support of the Second Amendment — especially when that candidate is challenging an incumbent favored by members of your board — is cause for concern and worthy of a larger conversation and a public explanation,” he writes.
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, donated the maximum allowable amount to McCaskill’s campaign, and Petersen writes that doesn’t “inspire confidence in Facebook’s neutrality.”
Facebook hasn’t responded to Petersen’s requests for more information, but the social media giant maintains a policy that prohibits private individuals from purchasing or trading firearms, ammunition, and explosives through the platform. It does allow firearms retailers to engage in “commercial activity involving firearms and ammunition on Facebook.”
Petersen ran as a Libertarian for President in 2016, but changed his party affiliation to run against McCaskill in 2018. He faces Toni Monetti, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and B-52 pilot. Other potential candidates include Missouri Attorney General Josh Hawley, state Rep. Paul Curtman, who have both formed exploratory committees. State Rep. Marsha Hefner, a St. Louis County Republican, has also expressed interest in running.
McCaskill is one of the Senate’s most endangered incumbents. President Donald Trump won the Show-Me-State by 19 points in 2016, and recent polls suggest she trails potential candidates who haven’t formally entered the race.