Recent changes to Facebook’s advertising policies require artists to either not advocate for any social issues in ad text or lose their privacy by requiring their personal information to be viewed on all ads via disclaimers and saved in a public ad library for seven years. 

On Monday, June 1st, I awoke to find all of my running ads rejected, for my new video, Silence Is Violence, a song about police brutality. This dumbfounded me because I had run a similar advertisement in the past, and as far as I could see, my ad did not violate any of Facebook content policy. Here is the ad in question. 

Here is the text of the ad:

Silence Is Violence. For all victims of police brutality and racism: #georgefloyd #ahmaudarberry #breonnataylor #bothanjean #philandocastile #tamirrice and the thousands of others lost. #saytheirnames Color Of Change NAACP PushBlack Equal Justice Initiative #blacklivesmatter #stopkillingus #takeaction #wearedonedying #silenceisviolence

I have read a few articles and talked to many friends that had experienced Facebook depressing the organic reach of their posts when discussing issues of race. Here are a couple of articles for reference: 

I clicked around the rejection notice and saw that they were asking me to verify my identity. The request seemed very unusual for me because I have been advertising on Facebook for what I thought was six years, but I have been using the same account for over ten years running ads. 

I can’t tell you how angry I was; it just didn’t make any sense to me. My Video is a dedication to victims and does not contain any foul language or violence—this, coupled with the fact that I have a long history on Facebook. They wanted the front and back of my license, and I needed to verify my address by entering it, and they would send a pin via mail, that I would need to enter into my account. With their history of privacy issues and hackings, this made me very uncomfortable. 

That day I went on Facebook LIVE to voice my concerns. I had also been experiencing something similar on Twitter, when they halted my ads for the same video promotion. I reached out to them, but Twitter did not respond to my messages and have no idea why these particular ads were halted in their platform.   

Here is the Video. 

The next morning I received a call from a Facebook advertising rep. I thought to myself; this cannot be a coincidence as Facebook never calls me. Who knows, but I was happy to be able to voice my concerns to a human. I explained in detail what happened to Mona, the Facebook rep, told me she was not able to respond to my concerns, but that she could put me in contact with a concierge department later that day. 

I connected with the concierge department later that day and explained my issue via chat. He told me ads about Social Issues were now treated the same as Political Ads. He sent me a link to Facebook’s Business Center.

https://www.facebook.com/business/help/313752069181919?id=288762101909005

I quickly scanned the page and told him, “This is for my band page, why wouldn’t an artist be able to run an ad like the one I did? He again referenced the article above. We chatted some more, and he told me that he would file an appeal for me and get back to me in 24-48 hours. He also said he believed that Facebook made an error. I never heard back from him, and shortly after our call, I received rejection notices from my appeal that I had filed the day before. 

I went back and did a thorough read of the information he sent. I talked with a few friends and family and decided that I would go through the Identity Verification. This is Facebook, they have all my information anyway, and I read that they would need to hold onto my driver’s license for 30 days. I became more comfortable with it. I went through the process and was pleasantly surprised that they said I would temporarily be able to run ads on Social Issues. 

I set up the same ad and put it in the system. I received a rejection notice shortly after. It told me that I would need a disclaimer on the ad. Here is information about Facebook’s disclaimers:

https://www.facebook.com/business/help/198009284345835?id=288762101909005

I started creating a disclaimer. It asked me for my Name, Phone Number, Address, and Website. Then it told me that this information would be stored in a public Ad Library for seven years. 

https://www.facebook.com/ads/library

This struck me as extremely troubling. Facebook is saying that if I advocate for anything personally, through art and expression, they will expose me to whoever is against my advocacy. With my name and other personal information stored in a publicly accessible database, that is searchable by issue or advertiser. Why does that bother me so much? There is a long history in America of targeting civil rights activists to destroy their lives. 

In my opinion, artists should not be forced into a neutral stance for issues that we support. Facebook is asking us to choose between our privacy/safety when using language that advocates for issues of importance. Furthermore, Facebook said that they should not be the arbiters of truth, which seems to be what is happening. When they let Donald Trump say whatever he wants, but artists must take a neutral stance or expose themselves; this has free speech repercussions, in my opinion. The fact that Mark Zuckerberg has gone out of his way to allow intentional political falsehoods to be spread with impunity begs the questions why impose this rule on artists and for what goal? How does one justify holding art accountable when the ones whose words matter are allowed to sing any tune. It leaves one to wonder what or whose purpose this serves.

Why do I need to use ads when promoting social content? For whatever reason, Facebook and Instagram’s organic reach has been dying for years. If you need to get a message out, it is near impossible to do that without ads or extremely large and loyal followers. They are effectively saying to me; you must not advocate for any social issues, including Civil Rights, Environmental Rights, and Crime within their ad network. Facebook is the number one communication platform in the world. They have put us in a position where we can not reach an audience with our message. I am not a politician or Super PAC, nor should I be held to the same standard. 

On top of it, my post does not advocate for any issues. It is a tribute to victims of police brutality and racism. I have not advocated for any policy or position, this is a purely artistic expression. If this is the level of moderation given to ads with social commentary from artists, then I believe Facebook has again overstepped its bounds. 

The views and opinions expressed on this article/video are mine and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Facebook. This content is not intended to malign any organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.