Michigan Right to Life Account Restored After Facebook Censored, Suspended Group

by Trey Elmore  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 17, 2017   

Social media giant only restored account after media reported on censorship

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GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (ChurchMilitant.com) - Right to Life of Michigan's ads on Facebook were re-activated Tuesday morning after having been blocked for a month by the social media giant. The organization discovered that its ad account on the site had been shut down on April 18 with scant explanation.

Church Militant reached out to Chris Gast, director of communications with Right to Life Michigan for comment, who said Facebook hasn't provided a clear explanation of how this happened.

"About a month ago we posted about the Grand Rapids abortionist being suspended for a lengthy list of crimes he had committed, and some time after that post we had noticed that Facebook had deactivated our ad account," Gast told Church Militant. "They initially said our ad account was suspended because our ads were misleading, and that they were receiving high negative feedback."

The story in question involved Grand Rapids abortionist Thomas Gordon, who lost his license and was fined $10,000. Right to Life's ad, which Facebook alleged was "misleading," featured the headline "Grand Rapids abortionist has license suspended, fined $10,000." This headline referenced the same news that other outlets reported on that same day.

Right to Life reported that in one year, it ran 10 ads, which reached more than 200,000 people, of whom 103 selected the "hide post" option to stop seeing the ads, and a single individual reported as spam. A one–to–200,000 rate of negativity resulted in a disabling of the pro-life group's advertising ability on Facebook.

Attempts through the Facebook help page as well as through the Better Business Bureau to find out why Right to Life's ad account was suspended proved to no avail. The group was given the run-around and directed away from human contact, continually being led to automated responses.

Gast told us that Facebook only responded to the situation after the press got in touch with the social media platform about the situation. "I got a call from the Detroit News," he told Church Militant. "[T]hey said they had contacted Facebook yesterday and apparently that was how we got our account access back."

Gast said Facebook completely changed its story on why the account was disabled. "Facebook told them that it was a mistake and that it was actually not because they were misleading as they originally told us, but that it had something to do with the image that was on the story, which was the mugshot that the Detroit Free Press and others had used of Dr. Gordon."

What if this happens to us again?

As it stands, however, with the account re-activated, Right to Life Michigan has no reason to believe the same scenario won't be repeated, namely, that what the group thinks was likely an automated system responding to an unknown user who flagged the ad will respond the same way the next time another anonymous user does the same. Until Facebook changes the way it evaluates spam flags or claims of posts being "misleading," this censorship will happen again.

"That really brings up the concern, if pro-life people or anyone gets banned from Facebook through an automated process, are they going to be able to rely on the Detroit News to bail them out of their situation?" Gast remarked. "I don't think so. What if this happens to us again?"


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