Too Political: Facebook Bans Gospel Singers' Ad for Song About 'Heaven'
Facebook is apologizing for banning an advertisement from a Christian musical group because a song about heaven was deemed too political for the platform.
According to WND, gospel group Zion’s Joy! paid $100 to increase the reach of a post featuring the new song “What Would Heaven Look Like.”
However, the post was deleted after Facebook deemed the ad contained “political content.”
The song’s lyrical content deals purely with praise, but the video shows quick imagery regarding recent events — including the Charlottesville and Dakota Access Pipeline protests — as the group sings lines like “I know it might feel like this trouble will stay, but this world will soon fade away.”
“We want to touch people’s hearts and let people know that we can do better than the world is doing right now,” group founder Robert W. Stevenson said in an interview, according to The New York Times.
A week after posting it on Facebook, the group decided to “boost” the video — paying to increase the number of people who see it. However, that’s when Facebook flagged the video as political content and blocked the post entirely.
In a July 5 statement, according to The Times, Facebook acknowledged that its algorithm is “new, broad and exists to prevent election interference, so we’re asking people with content that falls under those rules to simply get authorized and show who paid for the ad in order for it to run.”
“Separately, we made an error by deleting the original post,” the statement acknowledged.
“As soon as we identified what happened, we restored the post since it does not violate our Community Standards and have apologized to Zion’s Joy.”
Because of the images of protest, which come at the beginning of the video, Facebook says that the video falls under “issues of public importance,” which is why it got removed. Facebook’s new policy requires “election-related or issue ads” to feature information about who paid for them.
Stevenson insists that wasn’t his intention.
“We wanted to make sure that it wasn’t leaning one way or the other,” the 64-year-old singer said. “That it was just how we felt — people loving each other, regardless of race, creed or color.”
The Times seemed to play it off as an issue that has been spread equally around the spectrum, with “hair salons and day-care centers” feeling the wrath of the social media giant. The Grey Lady even listed itself among the victims: “The New York Times has complained that its paid promotions for its reporting on politics — and even for posts on subjects as innocuous as a cake recipe — have been treated as political advertising by Facebook.”
Generally speaking, however, the victims of these kinds of blockings tend to be associated with causes that are right-leaning in nature.
The Times noted that a man who put up excerpts of the Declaration of Independence had himself flagged by Facebook because of a part of the document that contained the phrase “Indian savages” (in reference to King George III’s support of Native American tribes attacking colonialists).
We’ve also documented how conservative-leaning content has demonstrably been hit harder by Facebook’s recent algorithm change than liberal-leaning content. Numbers, alas, don’t lie.
However, 30 seconds of protests at the beginning of a video does not a political advertisement make. This is a band singing about a world where “bigotry and hate are absent, only love and peace are present.” Is this somehow a political advertisement? Is Facebook’s algorithm held together by twine such that it can’t discern an innocuous gospel song from a campaign ad?
If so, then Facebook really ought to drop the pretense and admit it has no way to effectively flag covert political advertising. My guess is you’ll see no such statements coming out of Menlo Park anytime soon.
As for his part, Stevenson posted the video again and continued advertising it — and he refuses to flag it as “political content.”
“That would be like admitting that it’s political content, and it’s not,” he said. “We’re preaching peace and love and coming together.”
My guess is that this time, it doesn’t get taken down.
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