Facebook Censors a Youth Allies Promotion
(Update: Facebook Has Apologized)

Posted by MK on Dec 12, 2013 @ 3:39 pm
Computer in Chains

Facebook has censored a Youth Allies promotion.

[December 13 Update: Facebook has apologized. See below.]

Earlier today, I posted a story about a court ruling in India that upheld an anti-gay law. I then posted a link to the story on Facebook. I also decided to spend a few dollars promoting the post on Facebook (that is, I tried to “boost” it, to use the Facebook lingo), with the goal of further spreading the news about the devastating setback for human rights in India. Promoting, or boosting, a post on Facebook increases the number of users who will see it. Boosting a post typically only requires the click of a few buttons, and I haven’t previously encountered serious problems.

This time, however, I received the following notice from Facebook: “Your Post wasn’t boosted because it violates Facebook’s ad guidelines by advertising adult products or services, including toys, videos or sexual enhancement products. The post remains published, but it is not running as an ad.”

This is outrageous. I most definitely have not “advertis[ed] adult products or services.” And there is nothing remotely inappropriate about my post or about the story to which it links. The post and story pertain to a serious human rights dispute before the highest court of the world’s largest democracy. Facebook likens this to a sex toy advertisement?

Readers can also judge for themselves: A screenshot of the post that Facebook refuses to “boost” appears below (along with Facebook’s rejection notice). The story to which the post links appears here.

Here’s the post that Facebook refuses to “boost”:

Screenshot of post that Facebook refused to boost

And here’s the rejection notice:

Message from Facebook rejecting promotion

 

Facebook’s censorship here was likely the work of a computer using some sort of flawed filtering system, and not the work of an actual person. (At least that’s what I’m hoping.) But that doesn’t excuse what happened. I’ve filed a complaint with Facebook, and will update this post if I receive a response.

[December 13 Update: A Facebook representative has sent me an email, saying the promotion was "mistakenly disapproved." The promotion has "now been re-reviewed and approved." The representative apologized "for any inconvenience." As I suggested yesterday, my hunch is this "mistake[]” was a computer’s mistake, not a person’s mistake. But Facebook doesn’t say anything in its apology email about how the mistake happened. In any event, I appreciate the response, the apology, and the acknowledgment that the promotion should never have been disapproved.]

MK

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