Who would have guessed that it was at President Barack Obama's urging that Facebook disabled Libertarian Leanings ad account? Connecting the dots here!
A Fox News report describes Embarrassment at The Washington Post over a story implying that Obama reached out to Mark Zuckerberg specifically about Russian Facebook ads in the 2016 election. The truth is Obama did not mention Russia when he spoke to Zuckerberg, but he did want Facebook to filter out other "Fake News."
The Washington Post has made a correction to an explosive cover story that undermines the entire premise of Monday’s front-page article headlined, "Obama sought to prod Facebook on Russia role."
The problem, according to a Facebook executive, is that when Obama reached out to the social media giant in 2016 to discuss political disinformation spreading on the site, he didn’t actually call out Russia – essentially making the Post’s headline misleading and inaccurate. Or, as President Trump would call it, “fake news.”
As first reported by Axios, the Post added significant information to the digital version of the story with the disclaimer, “This story has been updated with an additional response from Facebook.” The response from Facebook that didn’t make the paper’s print edition is vital and changed the story enough that the word “Russia” was removed from the updated headline.
The story detailed how then-President Obama gave Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg a “wake-up call” regarding fake news spreading on his social media platform. After reporting that Obama “made a personal appeal to Zuckerberg to take the threat of fake news and political disinformation seriously," the paper has added that Obama “did not single out Russia specifically."
So far as I know, while Obama did not specifically single Russia, he did not single out out Libertarian Leanings either. However, Facebook did respond to Obama's appeal, and it did disable Libertarian Leanings' Facebook ad account in the aftermath. Yes, my friends, the opinions that I have shared on Libertarian Leanings are fake news according to Facebook.
My story begins in February of 2015 when I created a Libertarian Leanings Facebook page with the objective of increasing the reach of the Libertarian Leanings blog. One of Facebook's tools that I thought would help me do this is Facebook advertising. For a small fee, my range was $5 to $20, Facebook would promote a Libertarian Leanings post by advertising it on the Facebook pages of an audience that I could target within a certain set of parameters. Truth be told, the advertising didn't help much. Most Facebook users never bothered to click through to the Libertarian Leanings article that I hoped to promote. Be that as it may, that advertising tool is no longer available to Libertarian Leanings.
Libertarian Leanings apparently fell from favor shortly before the November 8th presidential election. On the Friday, November 4th I published an essay on the Libertarian Leanings blog stating my intention to vote for Donald Trump and the reasons for my choice. Simultaneously, a link to the essay was established on the Libertarian Leanings Facebook page. I went to Facebook and clicked on the button "boost" the post. My ad was accepted and I began to see increasing numbers of "people reached" by my Facebook entry.
Then, inexplicably, I received notification that my ad was rejected. I appealed the rejection, asking why the ad was rejected. I got a reply saying that after further review my ad was acceptable. The display showing number of people reached resumed its upward progress, and for an added bonus the boost button offered me the opportunity to add to advertising budget and reach even more people. I took it. Wrong move.
Clicking on the boost button got the ad rejected again. Here is the exchange between me and Facebook.
Apparently, appealing the decision was no longer an option because the ad had been appealed once and then ultimately denied.
I was annoyed, but in the end I prevailed. In spite of Facebook's efforts at blocking my message, I was able to get Donald Trump elected! Of course, it's within the realm of possibility that other factors contributed to Trump's victory. In any event, I didn't bother to pursue the issue of my rejected Facebook ad.
And then, on February 20, 2017 I received five identical emails from the Facebook ad team notifying me that my advertising account was disable
"Ad Account Disabled for Policy Violation
From Facebook Ads Team email@example.com
Sent Mon, Feb 20, 2017 12:26 pm
To Tom Bowler [redacted]*
Header Ad Account Disabled for Policy Violation
Account Id: [redacted]*
Your ad account has been disabled for promoting ads which violate our Facebook Ad Guidelines.
Any ads you are running under the Ad Account ID listed above have been turned off. If you believe this has been a mistake, please contact us.
We also suggest reviewing our e-learning Blueprint module to better understand Facebook Ad Guidelines."
*Account Id redacted by the Libertarian Leanings security team
There was a button that said I could "Learn More." The button took me a form where I could sign up to learn by providing my name and email address. I decided I'd pass on the educational opportunity. Five messages. In case I missed the point. I replied to one of them:
Subject: Policy Disabled Ad Account Help
Account Admin Name: Tom Bowler
Account Id: [redacted]*
Account Admin Email: [redacted]*
Is this your account?: Yes
Advertiser Account ID: 10152309798028414
Please provide information that will help us investigate: I haven't boosted any of my posts since November 4th when my boost was inexplicably rejected. I was never told why it was rejected, just as there is no indication why you are disabling my account at this time. I would like to know why, but only out of curiosity. I have no plans to spend money advertising on Facebook in the future.
*Account Id and email address redacted by the Libertarian Leanings security team
Oddly enough, later that afternoon I was given a reason that my original boost was rejected. And then rejected again after it was temporarily given a pass.
Your Ad Is Not Delivering
From Facebook firstname.lastname@example.org details
Mon, Feb 20, 2017 5:26 pm
To Tom Bowler [redacted]*
Your Ad Is Not Delivering
Your ad's image contains too much text which is preventing delivery of your ad to your audience. Click any of the links below to manage your ad, and make changes to reduce the amount of text in your ad's image to fix this issue.
The following ad needs your attention (1) View Ads
Account: Tom Bowler Campaign: Post: "I will be voting for Donald Trump next Tuesday...."Ad Set: Post: "I will be voting for Donald Trump next Tuesday...."
Boosted Post: Post: "I will be voting for Donald Trump next Tuesday...."
Three days later, on February 23rd, I got a note from Mary of the Facebook Ad Team explaining nothing.
Re: Policy Disabled Ad Account Help From Facebook email@example.com details
Thu, Feb 23, 2017 7:25 am
To Tom Bowler [redacted]
Thanks for reaching out to us. Your account has been disabled for not following Facebook's Advertising Guidelines.
Ad accounts are evaluated for policy compliance and quality of ad content. When accounts have run ads that are not policy compliant, they are disabled.
Your account was disabled for running misleading ads that resulted in high negative feedback from people on Facebook. Our goal is to provide the highest quality user experience. We reserve the right to reject any advertising that we deem contrary to these objectives. Similarly, we reserve the right to close an account creating ads contrary to these objectives.
For this reason, if any of your ads have been removed or your ad account has been disabled, we will be unable to reactivate either. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please consider this decision final.
Thanks for your understanding,
Facebook Ads Team
I replied to Mary of the Facebook Ad Team:
From: Tom Bowler [redaced]To: Facebook
Subject: Re: Policy Disabled Ad Account HelpHi Mary,
Thanks for your reply. Sadly, you have not answered my question. Specifically, why was my account disabled? To say that my ads were misleading provides no information. What ad? How was it misleading? What was the substance of the negative feedback?
I'm suspicious because the last thing I attempted to advertise on Facebook was a post explaining my vote for Donald Trump. The post was not so much a plug for Donald Trump as it was a slam of Hillary Clinton. That was November 4th. Then three months later you decide to disable my account. No advertising in the meantime.
Is this part of Facebook's crackdown on "fake news?" The sequence of events leads me to only wonder if it was my extremely negative view of Hillary Clinton that was considered "misleading" by the Facebook Ads Team. Undoubtedly there are some in the Facebook community who would find the appearance of so a negative view of Hillary Clinton on Facebook something less than "the highest quality user experience." Is that the real problem?
This is not an appeal of your decision to disable my account. When the ad for my November 4th post was rejected, I immediately decided that I had purchased advertising on Facebook for the last time. That decision is final.
That said, I would still like answers to my questions and I believe I deserve them. What ads were misleading? In what way were they misleading? What was the substance of the negative feedback?
Re: Policy Disabled Ad Account Help
From: Facebook firstname.lastname@example.org
Fri, Feb 24, 2017 8:40 am
To: Tom Bowler [redacted]
After careful review, I’ve determined that we’re unable to take further action regarding this matter.
Facebook Ads Team