Facebook allows flat-Earthers to censor a space history book


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A photographer trying to raise money for a self-published book of historical space artifacts had his Facebook ads repeatedly removed by Facebook because flat-Earthers and Moon hoax conspiracy theorists were offended.

About 24 hours after the ads were approved, he got a notification telling him the ad had been removed. He resubmitted it. It was accepted — and then removed again — 15 or 20 times, he said. The explanation given: He had run “misleading ads that resulted in high negative feedback.”

He understood that it was Facebook’s algorithm that rejected the ads, not a person. Getting additional answers proved difficult, a common complaint with advertising on Facebook. The best clues he could find came in the comments under the ads, which he and his colleagues captured in screenshots before they were removed and in responses to other posts about the project: There were phrases such as “The original moon landing was faking” and “It’s all a show,” along with memes mocking space technology. Some comments were hard to gauge, with users insisting that the earth was flat but that they’d buy the book anyway.

To fix the problem he had to hire an outside expert who knew how to get to a human being at Facebook, proving once again that Facebook is a very unethical and corrupt company. It should not have been so hard for Redgrove to get his problem fixed.

Update: In related news, Facebook has pulled a Trump campaign ad for a lot of vague reasons that really can be summed up as “We didn’t like it!”

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10 comments

  • Dick Eagleson

    Artificial intelligence we have yet to achieve. Artificial stupidity, on the other hand, we have already deployed in abundance.

  • Lee S

    While I agree with everything you say in principle here Bob, the simple fact of the matter is Facebook has somewhere between 1.5 and 2 billion users…. And anyone who counts on using such a platform for their business model is taking a risk.
    YouTube has the same problem… People who depend on making a living from a platform that can throw them off at a moment’s notice are asking for trouble…
    I’m actually surprised you are complaining about this situation… Facebook, Instagram, YouTube etc. are all privately owned companies, and as such, in the best of capitalist models, can do what the heck they like…. The only recourse to avoid any form of discrimination for any reason would be to nationalise them as public utilities, and I doubt that idea would get much traction here. ;-)
    You have the only logical model on the interwebs, do what you do, and ask people to donate what they can, when they can, on a value for value basis….
    Condemning a privately owned company for their business model on these pages smacks more than a little of hypocrisy.

  • Lee S: I am not “complaining” about Facebook, I am duly noting how bad a company it is, and how it would benefit us all if people began giving their business to others.

    Note that my solution is based on the idea of freedom. Facebook can do as it wants, badly and corruptly. Everyone else should take note and respond accordingly.

    Your solution is to “nationalize” the company, give this already badly done job to a federal government that has done nothing right for more than four decades, while bankrupting my nation and grabbing more power over our lives than it is legally supposed to have.

    Yeah, right, let’s give the feds more power! What could possibly go wrong?

  • Lee S

    @Bob…. I didn’t say “nationalising” the social media monopoly was a good idea… Indeed even as a socialist, the idea fills me with dread!
    I just said it would be the only solution to the problem of censoring a billion posts a day… With no bias…
    ( That is ironic English humour, if you didn’t catch it! ;-) )
    I have stopped using Facebook, and only occasionally use Instagram for the sake of family and friends who appreciate the occasional photos of myself and my kids ..
    I detest Facebook, for many reasons, not just the ones discussed here, and tolerate Google because it’s useful… But I would never create a business model on the back of any of them..

  • Cotour

    Facebook, as does Google enjoys certain legal protections from liability provided by Congress as facilitators of a service. They are no longer facilitators of a service and are now actively sensoring those who do not politically agree with them and endeavor to install their own flavor of politics in America.

    The solution?

    End the protections from liability provided by Congress and allow them to swim freely in the dangerous ocean filled with great white lawyer sharks who would circle them for their perversions related to their surrendering of their fiduciary responsibilities related to their remaing neutral.

  • Lee S

    @ Coture…I can only agree…. And perhaps get them to pay a little tax also?
    On a side note… Am I the only one who thinks the alleged ” interface ” by Facebook and Google in your, and the English elections is nonsense?
    I have never met anyone who ever met anyone who ever met anyone who was influenced to change their vote because of anything that popped up on Facebook or in a Google search.

  • Cotour

    Lee S:

    Please take a few moments a listen to this testimony by an expert on the subject of Google and the manipulation that they and facebook and the like are undertaking. These are not America interested companies, they are citizens of the world and their world is Liberal or Leftist.

    https://youtu.be/IzF7nBmwPso

    You have not met anyone who has been influenced by Google or facebook, because they have no idea they are being influenced. This technology is seamless and undetectable and instantainious, and by this experts testimony they have influenced at least 2.5 million votes in the 2016 election. And will influence up 15 million in the 2020 presidential election.

    Let us not be naive, this is way beyond what anyone in the vast majority of the public understands.

  • mike shupp

    Hmmm. On the one hand, the heading is right — “Facebook Allows Flat-Earthers to Censor a Space History Text” — since that is what happened. Other hand, it seems obvious that humans at Facebook aren’t so much guilty as their software being fooled. They put in an ad for a book, then they got a bunch of beefs from flat-earthers, then their software reported a number of complaints about “problems” with the book, and automatically yanked the ad.

    Might have been any product — “Ginza knives make kitchen work easier” — and any set of complaints — “These knives aren’t sharp.” “They’re all the same size, not a real set.” “I only gone one knife, not the three I paid for.” — and the software would have behaved the same way. Can’t really expect Facebook to send its staff off to every company selling stuff to physically inspect all the products. (And of course — here’s the humor — if Facebook employees really had carefully examined all those history texts, odds are they’d never have figured out what was “wrong” with them.)

    Artificial Intelligence — running your life, untouched by human mind! Figure the software will get better over time, but we aren’t at perfection yet.

  • mike shupp: You are blaming the software, which misses the point. Humans wrote that software. They are responsible for it. If the software makes very bad mistakes than the humans are the ones at fault, nothing else.

  • mike shupp

    Mr Zimmerman: Yeah, but … the “very bad mistake” the software made, which can be blamed on its programmers, is that it assumed that people complaining about advertised products did so in good faith — that we we’re all reasonable, decent, sensible people here, behaving normally like us programmers, no scammers, no trolls, no weird religious nuts, nobody hopped up on drugs or going berserk because a girlfriend dropped them or just having a fun time jerking around the clueless nerds at Facebook.

    The only fix I can see for this right now is to have live intelligent wide awake human beings actually look at every Facebook ad as a preliminary precaution and then look at every single complaint about those ads to see if they seem plausible. I don’t know how many new employees Facebook would need for this, but it’s probably about a million — so it ain’t happening.

    More or less, this is the basic problem with screening any sort of social medium, There are trolls and crooks and people not behaving well and they’re doing their best to slip through software that ought to be screening them out, and enough of them succeed to cause troubles for the rest of us. Which is why I occasionally sound off on the un-wondrous nature of ad-supported “free” media. Ah well!

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