Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, Vice Chair of the Assembly Education Committee and Vice Chair of the Assembly Privacy Committee, released the following statement on the sudden and unexplained removal of the 18,000-member Reopen California Schools group from Facebook.
“Facebook must immediately restore Reopen California Schools,” Kiley said. “Over the last year and half, this group has been a leading voice for parents and a vital source of accurate, up-to-date information about what is happening in schools across our state. Its parent volunteers have worked tirelessly to counter the misinformation propagated by Gavin Newsom, teachers’ unions and other corrupt officials who have sought to exploit the pandemic for political and financial gain.”
Facebook’s censorship of the group is particularly troubling because Reopen California Schools is currently engaged in litigation against Newsom. Earlier this year, a Freedom of Information Act request from Judicial Watch revealed that Facebook has been taking orders from California elected officials on the removal of politically disfavored speech. In his recent campaign against the citizen-led Recall, Gavin Newsom received $750,000 from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s wife in addition to $2.4 million from the teachers’ unions whose influence Reopen California Schools regularly exposes.
“It appears that one of Newsom’s massive special interest benefactors is using censorship as a tool to protect another and to shield the governor from accountability,” Kiley said. “The entire purpose of Reopen California Schools is to give parents the truth of what is going on in our schools, and Facebook is now assisting the Newsom Administration in trying to hide it from them.”
According to Reopen California School founder Jonathan Zachreson, “On Wednesday afternoon, several of the 18,000 members of the Reopen California Schools Facebook began having trouble accessing its content. Shortly after, no one could access any of the content, not even the founder and administrator. It’s as if the group vanished. Facebook gave the group no warning and still has not communicated with the group regarding its status despite the administrator reporting the ‘problem’ twice.”
“The following evening on Thursday, Facebook removed a similar group, Reopen California Schools and Sports with over 6,000 members,” Zachreson said. “Similarly, no warning or communication was given. Both groups are still down.”
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, California has been a national outlier when it comes to school closures, ranking 50th out of 50 in getting students back to the classroom. Prior to COVID-19, California ranked 49th out of the 50 states in education outcomes in low-income communities. During his first year in office, Gavin Newsom was condemned by civil rights groups for eliminating educational opportunities for poor and minority students to promote the financial interests of his biggest campaign donor, the California Teachers Association.
Earlier this year, Assemblyman Kiley co-authored with James Gallagher Assembly Bill 1114 to protect freedom of speech on social media platforms.