A new Snopes “fact check” went after pro-life news sites this week for exposing how Facebook banned pro-life ads ahead of the Irish election on abortion.
Snopes, a left-leaning website whose articles often have a pro-abortion bias, claimed that pro-life and conservative news sites “grossly misrepresented and over-simplified Facebook’s actions during the Ireland 2018 Eighth Amendment referendum campaign.”
The situation, which LifeNews reported about multiple times, involves comments that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg made during the Aspen Ideas Festival in June in Colorado.
“In Ireland, in the last year there was a referendum on abortion,” Zuckerberg said. “During that election leading up to that referendum, a bunch of pro-life American groups advertised … to try and influence public opinion there.
“We went to the Irish and asked folks there: ‘Well how do you want us to handle this? You have no laws on the books that are relevant for whether we should be allowing this kind of speech in your election, and really, this doesn’t feel like the kind of thing a private company should be making a decision on.’
“And their response at the time was: ‘We don’t currently have a law, so you need to make whatever decision you want to make,’” Zuckerberg said. “We ended up not allowing the ads.”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg admits to banning pro-life ads ahead of Ireland’s vote on legalizing abortion. It’s now legal to kill unborn babies as a result.https://t.co/Kj8r5CfKEJpic.twitter.com/nz202u4zc6
— LifeNews.com (@LifeNewsHQ) July 17, 2019
Snopes slapped a big, fat “False” rating on many pro-life news outlets’ reports about his comments.
It claimed that most reports ignored “two crucial facts”: “Firstly, that Facebook banned all advertising — both pro-life and pro-choice — that originated from outside Ireland and had to do with the country’s contentious abortion referendum in May 2018. Secondly, that Facebook continued to host both pro-life and pro-choice advertisements in the lead-up to the referendum, provided they originated within Ireland.”
They created a “false impression” that Facebook targeted pro-life advertisements, Snopes argued.
But Zuckerberg himself pointed to pro-life ads as their targets in his comments in June. And, though Facebook may have banned a few pro-abortion ads as well, it appears, by and large, to have banned ads from pro-life sources.
In May 2018, LifeNews reported how Facebook stopped running outside ads about abortion a few weeks before the Irish election on its pro-life Eighth Amendment. Most of the ads that Facebook took down appeared to be from pro-life sources.
Because the Irish media and politicians were heavily biased in favor of legalizing abortion, online advertising was one of the few mediums for pro-life educational efforts. When Facebook and Google banned the ads, pro-life groups lost one of their key outreach tools.
Even Snopes admitted that “the wording of Zuckerberg’s remarks in June 2019 could reasonably create the impression that the catalyst for Facebook’s blanket ban on foreign, abortion-related advertising may have been an influx of pro-life ads.”
Snopes also had an issue with reports that described Zuckerberg as “bragging” or “boasting” about removing the ads.
The first thing to note about Zuckerberg’s remarks is that he is clearly not “bragging” or “boasting” about Facebook’s intervention during the abortion referendum in Ireland. In fact, he expressed reticence on the part of Facebook about having a decisive role in regulating political advertising in the country in that case, and he was using the Eighth Amendment campaign as an example of why it would be better, in his view, for individual national governments to use local statutes, rather than private companies, to regulate that kind of content.
But his company did regulate content when it did not need to interfere. Facebook could have just stayed out of the whole situation. Zuckerberg’s comments indicate he was proud that his influential, powerful company interfered in the Irish abortion debate when it did not have to.
Snopes’ rating gives readers a misleading impression of the truth. Zuckerberg’s company did ban ads leading up to the Irish election, many of the pro-life, and took away one of the pro-life movement’s sources for spreading the truth about the value of every human life.