Who’s Gretchen Smith? LinkedIn apologizes for labeling Air Force vet’s post as ‘hate speech’

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LinkedIn reinstated an Air Force veteran’s post about student loans and apologized for wrongfully accusing her of violating the platform’s hate speech policy. Gretchen Smith’s post about rising from poverty to holding four college degrees after serving in Air Force, came after President Biden has paused federal student loan repayments until August 31, citing the ongoing pandemic. 

Smith, Tennessee resident who runs the non-profit organization, Code of Vets wrote: “I am not responsible for your student debt. I grew up in poverty in NC. Ate from a garden, name was on community Angel tree for Christmas, bought clothes from yard sales and if I was lucky, on a rare occasion Sky City. I joined the Air Force, then went to college. I made it happen.” LinkedIn removed her post and restricted her account, citing a violation of its “policy on hate speech”, according to screenshots shared by Smith on Twitter. 


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Smith appealed to LinkedIn by writing: “I was locked out of @LinkedIn just now for this exact post below. It went viral. This is the second time this platform has targeted me. I am frustrated and disappointed. Freedom of Speech has been secured by our blood, sweat and lives. This has got to stop. Will @LinkedIn help.” 





On Sunday, April 10, a representative of LinkedIn told Smith, “We confirmed your content does not violate our policies. We apologize for the mistake, your content is now back on LinkedIn.” The representative added, “We recognize there may be times when we don’t get it right and we offer the option to appeal a decision, if you feel content was removed in error.”



LinkedIn said Smith’s account had been restricted because she was posting on her personal page as opposed to a page dedicated to her organization. A LinkedIn representative told DailyMail, “We give several notifications to members to update their account to comply with our User Agreement ahead of any action taken from our end including restriction. The member in this case changed their personal account profile name to Code of Vets.” After Smith agreed to switch the page to a group account, LinkedIn lifted the restriction. 

Speaking to Fox News, Smith recounted her childhood and stood by her message. “Americans do not want to see student debt wiped out,” Smith said. “It’s not going to do them a service. It’s actually going to harm them. If you work hard and you’re consistent and you’re persistent, you can make it.” She added: “I am grateful LinkedIn reinstated our account. Now we can resume focusing on veterans in crisis/need”, referring to non-profit organization, Code of Vets. 

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