Our attempts this week to put up ads on Facebook produced some disturbing results. Facebook treated a news link from Fox News and a link to our website very differently, even though both contained the same information. We have previously been prevented many times from linking to our Fox News opinion pieces, but we hadn’t thought about the issue of systematic bias against Fox News until the events of this week.
1) This week, the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) released a new study on the rate of mass public shootings in different countries around the world. I put up a Facebook ad for a page on our website that allowed people to download the study, and Facebook quickly approved it without any problems. The landing page contained a summary of the results. (Click on the pictures to enlarge and make them easier to read.)
Here is the link to that study that we took the ad out for.
2) I also tried an ad that linked directly to Fox News’ news story on that research. FB did not approve that ad, and my appeal has gone nowhere. Facebook refuses to run an ad for a link to a Fox News news article because: “This ad was marked as low quality based on our low quality or disruptive content advertising policy. Low quality may include ads linking to external landing pages with an unexpected experience, feature minimal original content or contain disruptive or low quality ads.”
Here is the link that Facebook found objectionable.
In our appeal, we wrote back that the Fox News link was to an original news story. I told them that I don’t understand how FB views a news story as either “low quality” or “disruptive,” but that we would appreciate them explaining why. Unfortunately, Facebook just repeated its previous response.
Still another ad linking to a Real Clear Politics news article
on our research was approved. Real Clear Politics is moderate, and certainly more acceptable to liberals than Fox News.
Facebook disapproved the ad for Friday’s NY Post op-ed, but it was for a different reason than the Fox News article. FB disliked the NY Post op-ed ad because it was viewed as having “political content,” possibly because it was an opinion piece rather than a news story. Our previous op-ed on gun control in the New York Times was quickly approved. It isn’t apparent to us why the NY Post op-ed should be viewed as a political ad while the op-ed in the NY Times should be approved.
We have experienced similar problems when we have tried to promote our Fox News opinion pieces. But we had no problem with op-eds in The Hill
and New York Daily News.
If Facebook is preventing ads that promote news articles at Fox News, it could have a significant impact on website rankings. Given how close the Fox News and CNN websites have been in page views, this bias could make a real difference in ranking.
For us, it means difficulty in highlighting news or opinion coverage of our research.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only time that we have run into such biases on social media (a couple of examples that we have written about are here
media bias on guns, Social Media Censorship