Facebook has apologized for blocking
advertisements featuring LGBT content, but questions remain about how
the social media giant deals with the issue of identity.
According to The
Washington Post, Facebook targeted dozens of advertisements
with LGBT content, saying that they were “political” and that the
organizations or individuals who posted the ads needed to register as
political entities with Facebook. Facebook added stricter
requirements for political ads in response to the revelation that
Russian-state actors had used the platform's ad network to influence
the outcome of the 2016 election.
Ads blocked included a gay fairy tale
cabaret in Las Vegas, a social group for gay men who speak Spanish
and a list of housing options for LGBT seniors by a nonprofit in
David Kilmnick, head of the LGBT
Network in Long Island, said that Facebook had blocked about 15 of
his organization's advertisements. Facebook rejects ads from the
group for events such as the Long Island Pride Parade, a beach
concert and an LGBT youth prom it helps organize.
“We were completely targeted simply
because we were LGBT,” Kilmnick said, “for what we're advertising
– ads that promote our programs that help support the community and
celebrate pride. There's nothing political about that.”
Thomas Garguillo, a retiree who manages
a Facebook page dedicated to the history of the Stonewall Inn, a
national landmark, called Facebook's policy of blocking such ads
“ludicrous” and “Orwellian.”
When he asked Facebook why his ads were
being rejected, he was told that the company considers LGBT to “fall
under the category of civil rights which is a political topic.”
“You would need to be authorized to run ads with this content,” a
Facebook employee told him.
Facebook apologized, saying that it
does not view LGBT content as political.
“The ones that were incorrectly
labeled have been removed from the archive and we apologize for the
error,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “We do not
consider all ads that relate to LGBT under this policy, but rather
only those that advocate for various policies or political positions,
which several of these ads do.”
“Though Facebook has taken pains to
appear neutral, the censorship of LGBT ads, however inadvertent,
points to the company’s difficulty in finding a middle ground in a
tense national climate where policy increasingly hinges on
fundamental questions about race and identity,” The Post wrote.