Grand Rapids, Mich. — Wexford/Missaukee Right to Life, an affiliate of Right to Life of Michigan, discovered on October 4 that their Facebook advertising account had been shut down without explanation.
This is the third time this year Michigan prolife organizations have had their Facebook advertising accounts summarily banned. Right to Life of Michigan’s advertising account has been banned twice without cause in 2017, but was restored thanks to media scrutiny.
Right to Life of Michigan President Barbara Listing said, “Facebook’s self-described mission is to, ‘give people the power to build community…’ It’s hard to do that when community organizations have tools taken away from them without an explanation. Unfortunately many local organizations don’t have the resources we did to demand an explanation and receive a solution.”
Wexford/Missaukee Right to Life has not been given any specific details about what caused the ban. They were not directly informed their account had been banned; they only discovered the ban when attempting to purchase additional advertising.
Similar to the ban of Right to Life of Michigan’s advertising account, Facebook’s support team refused to answer specific questions and instead sent a vague form response. On October 4 Wexford/Missaukee Right to Life was told by Facebook, “There’s no further action you may take here. We don’t support ads for your business model.”
Wexford/Missaukee Right to Life has the exact same “business model” as Right to Life of Michigan and our other local affiliates who utilize Facebook advertising. Their “business model” was never in question for earlier advertising purchases.
Right to Life of Michigan in April was similarly told our ban was a final decision beyond appeal, but after a Detroit News reporter contacted Facebook for details in May, our advertising account was restored. Facebook told the Detroit News the ban was a mistake and that they had contacted Right to Life of Michigan to inform us of the resolution. Facebook has not contacted us to this day to explain how the mistake occurred.
Right to Life of Michigan’s advertising account was again shut down a few days after our account was restored in May, but a support request including a link to the Detroit News article led to the account being quickly reinstated.
Listing said, “We achieved no results working through Facebook’s customer service department and the Better Business Bureau. Facebook only appears to respond to media attention to fix what they claim is a simple mistake.”
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 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.”
Listing said, “Are these bans automated? Does a human being respond to questions from users? Does Facebook think they can get away with censoring smaller pages and users because they can’t draw attention? These are questions Facebook must respond to if they truly want to build community trust.”
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.