A conservative group has accused Facebook of censorship after the tech giant removed one of its political ads that's critical of Democratic politicians who support allowing boys who identify as transgender to compete in girls-only sports.
Facebook claims the ad, produced by the American Principles Project, a socially conservative think tank, was pulled for “missing context."
As part of a $4 million ad campaign targeting the swing states of Michigan and Wisconsin ahead of the November election, American Principles Project created three ads, one of which is titled “Not Fair” that slams Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich., over their support for the so-called Equality Act, which passed the Democrat-controlled House and would allow biological males who identify as female to compete in girls'-only athletics.
“All female athletes want is a fair shot at competition, at a scholarship, at a title, at victory,” the ad says. “But what if that shot was taken by a competitor who claims to be a girl but was born a boy? Senator Gary Peters and Joe Biden support legislation that would destroy girls' sports."
The ad describes the Equality Act as “not fair” before labeling Biden and Peters as “too extreme for Michigan.”
First broadcast on Sept. 3, the ad was flagged by Facebook on Tuesday after PolitiFact subjected it to a "fact check." Facebook subsequently took action by removing the ad from its platform on Wednesday.
PolitiFact's article mostly cited sources that support or advocate for trans-identified athletes to compete in girls'-only sports. While PolitiFact featured commentary from several proponents of the Equality Act who attempted to debunk the premise of the 38-second ad, it also showed that the ad is correct, noting that both Biden and Peters support the bill's prohibition of discrimination based gender identity. It also showed that both politicians agree with allowing boys who identify as transgender to enter girls' bathrooms, locker rooms and showers.
In response to Facebook's action against the ad for purportedly "missing context," American Principles Project Executive Director Terry Schilling said in a statement shared with The Christian Post that "What that means is anyone’s guess."
"We are still waiting to hear exactly what context our ad is missing that made it so dangerous that voters needed to be protected from its message,” Schilling added, expressing concern that “Facebook is simply using the ‘missing context’ label as an arbitrary means to remove speech it disagrees with.”
“It would be understandable, though still very troubling, if Facebook removed the ad for being ‘fact-checked’ as false. However, our ad has not been found false by any fact-checker, nor could it be.”
He said Facebook’s removal of the ad was “just the latest example in a frightening trend of Big Tech censorship, particularly of conservative ideas.”
In an interview with CP on Wednesday, Schilling expanded on his discontent with Facebook’s so-called fact-checking policy.
“Before last week, your ads could only be pulled down from Facebook if they were deemed to be false or mostly false. But last week, they changed their policy to give the fact checkers more leeway to where they could claim what they’re claiming here, which is that our ad is ‘missing context,’” he explained.
“The real problem with this is that every ad, whether it’s positive or negative in politics, is going to miss context because how campaign ads are supposed to work is there’s an issue that you’re talking about and one side makes an argument about what a policy will do and the other side makes a negative argument about what the policy will do, and we leave it up to the voters to decide what that policy will do, who has the better claims. And that’s what we’re doing,” he said.
A representative from Facebook did not reply to CP's request for comment, but instead pointed to the company’s policy on the enforcement of fact-checker ratings. “We do not allow advertisers to run ads that contain content that has been debunked by third-party fact-checkers, including content rated False, Partly False, Altered or Missing Context,” the policy explains.
Schilling maintains that Facebook had no reason to take down the advertisement. “My main point is very simple: This issue is currently being litigated in federal court,” he said. “A group of women athletes in Connecticut are suing the Connecticut high school sports association for allowing men to compete in women’s athletics.”
“They’re filing a Title IX suit against them. If their case and their arguments are enough to have standing in federal court, I have no idea how this doesn’t meet Facebook’s standards for political ads,” he contended.
The Equality Act, which passed the Democrat-controlled House last year, has little chance of becoming law by the end of the 116th Congress with Republicans in control of the Senate and President Donald Trump in control of the executive branch. Should Democrats regain control of the Senate and the White House following the Nov. 3 election, the controversial legislation has a strong chance of being signed into law.