Just days before the midterm elections that have been elevated to the importance of a presidential year, Facebook once again has been caught censoring the messaging of a group trying to reach a critical voting bloc: social conservatives.
This time it’s the Susan B. Anthony List, a nonprofit organization active in both policy and politics, advocating for pro-life laws and informing voters where lawmakers stand on protecting the lives of the unborn.
The problems began with the release on consecutive days in early October of a pair of powerful ads featuring two families telling the stories of how their children were born prematurely due to pregnancy complications, but are healthy today. “Micah” was born at 22 weeks of development, and “Charlotte” was born at 24 weeks. Each ad, devoid of any shock imagery or content that runs afoul of Facebook’s standards, ends with the message, “unborn babies deserve protection – vote pro-life in November.”
According to SBA List, however, those ads were deemed unfit, as Facebook disapproved of the group’s efforts to pay for the messages to reach a far wider audience – several thousands of more voters who could have received the message. SBA List reported that Facebook halted the “Charlotte” campaign two days after it began to run, then later the same day reinstated the ad, only to again disapprove it two weeks later. The “Micah” campaign was disapproved two weeks after it began to run, then reinstated a day later.
SBA List slammed Facebook for its censorship at such a critical time for its messaging, and debunked any insinuation that its messages were suspect following a widely publicized effort by the social media company to combat “fake news.”
“Charlotte Ryun and Micah Pickering survived their premature births. That’s factual,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, SBA List’s president. “It’s also factual that pro-abortion politicians across this country support painful late-term abortions, even after 20 weeks, more than halfway through pregnancy. Facebook is censoring the truth and political free speech. It is a direct contradiction of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s public pledge that she would not censor pro-life free speech, even if she disagreed with it. The clock is ticking to Election Day, and Facebook is stifling our ability to get our message out about politicians who support brutal late-term abortions.”
The silencing of the ads didn’t end there. Following the shenanigans surrounding the “Micah” and “Charlotte” ads, which were supposed to target critical elections in Arizona and Iowa, another SBA List ad that addressed the competitive U.S. Senate race in Tennessee was blocked only five days before Tuesday’s election. The group reported that Facebook stopped running the ad that was critical of the abortion policy record of Democrat former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who is running against pro-life Republican Marsha Blackburn (who has been censored in the past by social media).
— Susan B. Anthony List (@SBAList) November 1, 2018
“SBA List has faced repeated censorship over the last few weeks and now our ad supporting Marsha Blackburn has been disapproved, even after more than 90,000 had viewed it,” Dannenfelser said. “Facebook must immediately stop its censorship of pro-life speech. All the information presented in our ads has been factual, if surprising, to those unwilling to face the reality of pro-abortion extremism.”
Later in the day SBA List reported that Facebook relented and apologized, stating that the disapproval was made in error, and restored the ad. However, another similar advertisement addressing the tight U.S. Senate race in Montana between pro-life Republican Matt Rosendale and incumbent pro-abortion Democrat Jon Tester, was removed.
“This is the sixth time this month that Susan B. Anthony List and our partners have had an ad campaign shut down,” said SBA List vice president of communications Mallory Quigley. “Our pro-life message is constantly under threat by Facebook which, despite the promises of COO Sheryl Sandberg, has created a hostile environment for pro-lifers to advertise in.”
Quigley pondered whether pro-abortion groups, which are spending millions on Congressional campaigns this year, were getting similar treatment from Facebook.
“Which ads of Planned Parenthood’s has Facebook denied?” Quigley wondered. “Which pro-abortion candidates have they censored? Facebook is a communications tool through which both sides are working to engage and turn out voters, but now Facebook is not even bothering to hide their bias.”
Even though some of the ads were reinstated, the final days leading up to Election Day are critical for advocates to get their messages to voters. By jerking around SBA List and randomly turning their ads off, then on again, puts a burden on the group that their political adversaries don’t have to deal with. The audience for their political insights was shrunk, unlike Planned Parenthood’s.
Once again, Facebook has been shown playing favorites – while still taking the money from the groups they obviously abhor. What a ripoff, especially for a company that claims to be in the business of free speech.