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June 28, 2022

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Candidate Loren Culp says Facebook is canceling him. He may have fallen for a phishing scam

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SEATTLE — Washington congressional candidate Loren Culp claimed this week that Facebook had notified him it was about to delete his campaign page — a move he decried as an example of Big Tech censorship of conservatives.

But Facebook says it sent no such notice, and it appears Culp may have fallen for a common phishing scam.

As of Wednesday, Culp’s page had not been removed and a Facebook spokesperson said the company had no plans to do so.

Culp, the Donald Trump-endorsed Republican seeking to oust Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Sunnyside, for his impeachment vote, blasted out an alert to his supporters on Twitter, and sent a fundraising email Monday headlined “We’re Being Canceled by Facebook.”

In it, Culp said his campaign had just been notified “that we are being de-platformed with zero reasons given as to the specific reason.” The message asked supporters to “chip in $10 to help us fight back against Zuckerberg and the censorship machine at Facebook.”

Culp shared an emailed notice, ostensibly from Facebook but containing grammatical errors, which said the Culp for Congress page would be unpublished “because it violates Pages terms.” The message gave a link for the Culp campaign to appeal the decision.

Culp’s announcement grabbed widespread attention on social media and generated several news headlines.

But according to Facebook, Culp’s claim is false. As of Wednesday evening, his campaign page remained live.

“Regarding the email the candidate tweeted, no such notification was sent by Facebook,” said Corey Chambliss, a Facebook spokesperson, in an email. In a follow-up message, he added “the fact that the page remains live speaks for itself. We have a support team that would be happy to speak with the campaign directly if it may be helpful.”

The message cited by Culp appears similar or identical to phishing hoaxes that have been publicly flagged by fact-checking organizations and other online publications. Such messages impersonate legitimate businesses and try to trick people into clicking links and revealing personal information. Facebook has a page warning users about such fraudulent emails.

Despite Facebook’s public comments that it had not sent Culp any cancellation notice, he continued to insist in a Tuesday night livestreamed video that his campaign was in jeopardy of being suppressed by the tech giant.

“Why does the Left like to censor so much? So many conservatives have been censored across social media platforms,” he said in the video, which was streamed simultaneously on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Culp, the former police chief of Republic in Ferry County, lost the 2020 gubernatorial election to Gov. Jay Inslee by 545,000 votes but refused to concede, echoing Trump in lobbing false claims of widespread fraud and irregularities. While running for Congress this year he also has pushed unproven treatments for COVID-19, including ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine.

Chris Gergen, Culp’s campaign manager, said in an email Wednesday the campaign reached out to Facebook for clarification.

“The possible fake email in question passed all of our security measures and spam blockers and hit our account Monday—this is why the email was taken seriously. We have NOT received any clarification from Facebook on whether it was a scam—they did not respond to our inquiry,” he said.

Gergen added that the Culp campaign plans to put out an additional statement on Thursday to his supporters “regarding the event and our follow up actions which will likely include diversifying our social media presence.”

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