Conservative children's book publisher has its advertising account locked by Facebook (Update)

Recently, Facebook decided to lock a start-up children’s book publisher out of their advertising account. This particular start-up was using Facebook ads to promote biographies about conservative figures, part of a series called Heroes of Liberty. The first three books in the series were about Thomas Sowell, Amy Coney Barrett and Ronald Reagan. Bethany Mandel, the editor of the books, says their advertising account was shut down, possibly because of complaints from progressives about the subject matter of the books.

Facebook’s explanation of “low quality or disruptive content says:

Ads must not contain content leading to external landing pages that provide an unexpected or disruptive experience. This includes misleading ad positioning, such as overly sensationalized headlines or prompts for users to inauthentically interact with the ad, and leading people to landing pages that contain minimal original content and a majority of unrelated or low quality ad content. For more information on what we consider low quality, visit our Business Help Center.

If you follow that link above for more detail you get taken to a page of examples of what not to do. Curiously, it seems to be saying advertisers shouldn’t use Buzzfeed style headlines, i.e. “7-uses of carrots that will have you rethinking your diet.” But Mandel provide an example of one ad they used and it doesn’t seem to follow the clickbait format.

What Mandel did see is negative responses to the content of the books:

Fox News covered the story this morning and has a bit more on the company’s ads:

After Heroes of Liberty appealed, Facebook sent another message. “After a final review of this ad account, we confirmed it didn’t comply with our Advertising Policies or other standards,” the message reads. “You can no longer advertise with this ad account and its ads and assets will remain disabled. This is our final decision.”…

Heroes of Liberty used the ads account to promote and sell the books. During its last month on the platform – between Nov. 23 and Dec. 23 – the account promoted 68 ads, and 95.2% of the money spent on ads in this period went to ads that were ranked “average” or “above average” in Facebook’s quality score. Only three ads were rated below “average,” according to Heroes of Liberty…

“It’s very likely those same people reported to Facebook that our content is disturbing, because it doesn’t sit well with their radical worldview,” Mandel said. “These are the same people who riot and take down statues of our founding fathers in the real world, and they want to strip us of our ability to honor our Heroes in the digital sphere and in children’s books.”

It’s not clear (to me) which three ads were rated below average or why they were given that rating. Mandel believe this was some sort of reporting of the ads based on content and going back to that Facebook page about ads, it does suggest that the company looks at other signals to determine if an ad is “disruptive.”

To measure ad quality, we also use certain additional user signals. These include:

  • Hide Ad

  • Hide all ads from this advertiser

  • Hide ad due to repetition

  • Report Ad

  • Landing page Bounce Rate

  • Landing page dwell time

So if you had a bunch of progressives reacting in shock to the idea of teaching kids about Ronald Reagan or Thomas Sowell (hiding the ad or reporting it), it seems like that could lead to a reaction from Facebook. Honestly, that wouldn’t surprise me at all given the cancel culture mindset many on the left have adopted. The question is why Facebook can’t see what is happening and just choose to ignore it? If there’s something more to this decision it would be nice if someone at Facebook would explain it. As it stands, it seems they are falling for one of the oldest partisan tricks in the book.

For now it’s just the group’s advertising that has been shut down. Their Facebook page for the Heroes of Liberty books is still up though it’s not clear if they still have permission to add content to it. Here’s one of the last things they posted on Dec. 19:

Update: This was all an error?

But why? They allegedly reviewed the error and stood by it. No real explanation was offered.