In recent months Facebook has declared a crackdown on what it deems “fake news.” Right to Life of Michigan may be the latest legitimate organization swept up in this crackdown. On April 18, Right to Life of Michigan staff discovered that our advertising account had been shut down without notice for “policy violations.”
We asked Facebook to provide more details on the suspension. The next day, Facebook staff sent what appeared to be an automated response stating on April 19, “your account was disabled for running misleading ads that resulted in high negative feedback from people on Facebook.” The response continued, stating that, “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.”
A follow-up e-mail asking for specific details on which ads were misleading received a response 12 minutes later stating, “After careful review, I’ve determined that we’re unable to take further action regarding this matter.” Was there really a “careful review” of our ads that were deemed misleading? Was this even a response typed out by an actual human being?
A complaint filed with the Better Business Bureau on April 19 received a response on April 27, with Facebook stating that we had an open ticket and to please respond through it. That would be the ticket they closed after 12 or so minutes of “careful review” a week prior. Another follow-up through the BBB asking to speak with a real human being was met with another form response suggesting we should find help in their help center: a help center where you get further automated form responses.
Have Right to Life of Michigan advertisements been receiving high negative feedback? Facebook won’t tell us what qualifies, so you be the judge. In the last 12 months Right to Life of Michigan has run 10 advertisements, with Facebook reporting the ads as reaching 233,602 people. Only 103 people selected an option to hide our posts, and only one person filed a spam report. This is a negative feedback rate of only 0.04 percent.
Compare that to Facebook’s 2016 customer satisfaction scores according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index. Facebook has a negative feedback rate of 32 percent, 800 times that of our ads. Perhaps it’s because of the irony that the flagship for “social” media is unable to generate human responses to even paying customers.
In the absence of a real human response, Right to Life of Michigan is forced to conclude that it was our most recent ad—run a week before we noticed our ad account suspension—that drew the ire of Facebook. The post was breaking news about the suspension of abortionist Thomas Gordon in Grand Rapids. The ad reached 18,090 people, and 35 people clicked the option to hide the post, a negative feedback rate of 0.19 percent, less than one person out of 500. The ad was not misleading, clearly explaining that it was breaking news. The facts in the story have been covered by well-respected local news outlets. The ad was approved by Facebook and completed its run with no objection. The post was not removed by Facebook.
Past Right to Life of Michigan ads that have been rejected by Facebook all involved issues where the image attached contained more than 20 percent text. Facebook has never rejected our ads as misleading or for having what Facebook considers “high negative feedback.”
Our most reasonable guess is that a Facebook staff person hostile to prolife views decided to block our ad account based on a personal animus or snap judgment regarding the facts of a true news story. Someone must have reported this true news story as “misleading,” causing a review. Another guess is that Facebook is shutting down legitimate accounts with an automated system and refuses to have a human being review this process or respond to the organization they have harmed. We don’t know, because Facebook refuses to communicate with us in a human way.
In 2016 Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg met with conservative leaders who expressed fear that they would be victims of censorship following an accusation that Facebook staff members were blocking legitimate political pages based on their personal biases. After the meeting Zuckerberg said, “I wanted to hear their concerns personally and have an open conversation about how we can build trust.”
Facebook’s most glaring trust issue is that their atrocious customer service refuses to socialize with their customers. It’s an ominous future where persons or organizations that clash with the personal values of Facebook’s leadership are forced to resort to public campaigns to even gain a hearing, let alone fair treatment in their Kafkaesque community management practices.
Facebook’s status as a gatekeeper of information is already a troubling concern given their practice of filtering content to only certain viewers in users’ news feeds. This news feed algorithm—utterly lacking in transparency—leaves social media users in the dark about their content and Facebook’s rules. It leaves Facebook with an alarming means to restrict or exclude content it disagrees with politically. The mere thought of calling Facebook out for censorship leads to the fear that Facebook could retaliate by blocking future content of those who criticize them, and do so without their customers having any way of knowing it.
Right to Life of Michigan is calling on Facebook to be more transparent. They must do a better job of communicating with users who make good-faith attempts to abide by their guidelines.
Adding insult to injury is the constant bombardments Right to Life of Michigan staff continued to receive from Facebook asking us to spend advertising money. If only, Facebook, if only.