US President Donald Trump is breaking the law – Facebook law, that is. His campaign’s crime? Assuming the gender of potential voters in ads, which now have to be removed from the social media platform.
The alarm over Trump’s campaign ads was sounded by ThinkProgress founder Judd Legum, who claimed that Facebook is allowing itself to be used as a vehicle for spreading the president’s lies. The latest falsehood to be slain by this election integrity crusader? An ad from “Women for Trump” imploring the viewer that the president “needs the support of strong women like you!”
“Donald Trump has a problem with women,” ex-Hillary Clinton campaign staffer Legum snarked on his site Popular Information on Monday, pointing out that more than 60 percent of women disapprove of the president according to some recent polls. But trying to change those women’s mind is apparently even worse than disappointing them, because Legum went out of his way to get the “Women for Trump” ad removed from Facebook.
“This ad, and others like it, violate Facebook’s rules,” Legum huffed, boasting that his report alone got the ad knocked off the platform. The Trump campaign’s mistake? Including the language “like you” in the ad copy – under the platform’s increasingly stringent regulations, ads “must not contain content that asserts or implies personal attributes” including gender. “Trump needs the support of strong women” is fine – “Trump needs the support of strong women like you” is not.
Popular Information has done this before, torpedoing a series of hundreds of female-focused Trump ads in April by ratting them out to Facebook. The ads all included the opener “Attention ladies,” and were thus forbidden under the same rationale as the “Women for Trump” ad. There, too, Legum expressed shock they had not been taken down earlier, claiming Facebook was “asleep at the wheel” and risked a repeat of 2016 (in which, in his telling, Trump sailed to victory on a tide of “pro-Trump misinformation” while Facebook looked the other way).
Legum isn’t entirely off the mark in calling out Trump’s campaign ads for breaking Facebook’s rules. Some appear to serve up false info, such as an ad claiming Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden, Andrew Yang, and Pete Buttigieg support eliminating private health insurance. But other “falsehoods” – such as an ad misrepresenting a contest to win a signed MAGA hat as having a midnight deadline – are nothing like the “brazen” threats to democracy Legum claims.
How am I able to do a better job reviewing Trump’s ads for rules violations than Facebook, which had $16 BILLION in revenue last quarter?
I have no idea
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) August 19, 2019
Apparently too busy banning ads from “state controlled news media” in a seeming bid to control the narrative regarding the burgeoning color revolution in Hong Kong, Facebook had little to say in response to Legum’s pleadings, thanking him for informing the company about the Trump campaign’s violations and continuing to rely on its automated review to catch bad ads.
During the 2018 midterms, Facebook notoriously let 100 percent of the fake political ads submitted by Vice run on its platform – including deliberately absurd postings for the Islamic State terror group and reconstituted “Russian troll” posts from 2016, in addition to fake ads from real candidates.
Still, Trump is spending more than any of the other campaigns on Facebook advertising, and the #Resistance was quick to congratulate Legum on a job well done – even pointing out other technicalities the “Women for Trump” ads may have violated.
I’m pretty sure it also violates FB’s 20% rule that text cannot take up more than 20% of the ads dimensions. Here is the verdict from FB’s own tool. They are letting them run because thy know there’s $$$ flowing in. They don’t want to anger the gravy train. pic.twitter.com/eEIWu1bjq0
— John Fischetti (@jfischetti22) August 19, 2019
“They are letting [the ads] run because they know there’s $$$ flowing in,” one commenter hypothesized, as if Facebook sold political ads for other reasons.
Others suggested Legum set his sights a little higher.
“Of all the reasons to ban Trump ads, this is probably the least significant,” one user tweeted.
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