Why does Facebook reject anti-Semitic ads? – J.

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Rabbi Yochanan Friedman, keen to attract more attendees from the Santa Cruz area to the course he teaches titled “Outsmarting Antisemitism,” took to his Chabad by the Sea Facebook page to post a paid ad about the course. . A few hours later, he received a notification from Facebook. His ad had been rejected.

Friedman is not alone. In recent weeks, more than 50 Chabad rabbis across the country, including at least three in the Bay Area, have suffered the same rejection. The four-part course, which focuses on the history of anti-Semitism and strategies to overcome it, was developed by Rabbi Zalman Abraham, marketing director of the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute, a Chabad-Lubavitcher initiative. As of this week it is being taught by rabbis across the country.

Facebook allowed almost identical posts about the course to appear on Chabad Facebook pages and personal rabbis accounts. Some rabbis have also created Facebook events to promote the course. Only paid advertisements, intended to reach a wider audience, were rejected.

“It’s meant to be a way to heal communities and heal the wounds of years and years and generations of discord,” Friedman said. “Prevent people from being informed about this course [through advertisements] seems to be the opposite of what Facebook’s policies should theoretically be.

The ads fall under the Facebook ad category of “social, election or political issues,” according to Devon Kearns, a Facebook spokesperson. Most were said to have been rejected because they had not disclosed who paid for the advertising, a protocol that Facebook has demanded since 2018, in order to improve transparency and prevent foreign entities and bad actors from influencing companies. elections and sow disinformation.

After the rabbis’ ads were rejected, Facebook provided a notification as well as a checklist of specific steps for their ads to be properly authorized, such as providing photo ID, ID number Chabad tax and a warning about who paid for the advertising.

Rabbi Yehuda Ceitlin of Chabad Tucson followed these steps, ran into technical hurdles, and said he ultimately called Facebook’s marketing team on the phone. He said a specialist, unsure of how to fix the problem, put him in touch with a second.

“They themselves didn’t know how to do it,” Ceitlin said, calling the situation a “catch-22” because his ad fell into a category deemed political even though his organization, Chabad, did not. “It just went around in circles,” he said.

We lost a crucial opportunity to educate the public at the time.

Rejected Facebook ads come with an option to appeal the decision. Kearns explained that in the event that a social advertisement did not meet the disclosure requirements, appealing would not change the outcome, even if “we regularly take feedback and evolve our policies,” she said. .

“They say these policies are meant to protect people, and in reality there is collateral damage, so to speak, when good information is blocked,” Friedman said.

The Anti-Defamation League called the experiences “a great example of the need for greater transparency on the part of large social media platforms,” ​​said Seth Brysk, ADL’s regional director for the Central Pacific, in an email. “As a result, ADL is working hard to pass AB 587, California’s Social Media Transparency Act, to ensure that big tech shares with the public what they see as violations and how they enforce their policy.”

The problem, unfortunately, is “extremely common,” according to David Greene, senior lawyer and director of civil liberties at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the international nonprofit digital rights group based in San Francisco.

“The context of the content does not appear to have been taken into account,” said Greene, noting that human rights groups have encountered similar problems in trying to expose documented cases of torture and crimes of war.

Educational Facebook ads about the Holocaust have repeatedly “hit a brick wall,” according to Michelle Tycher Stein, head of marketing and communications at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC

In June, Stein paid for an ad on the museum’s Facebook page to promote a museum-run YouTube program, sharing the first-person testimony of a Holocaust survivor. She said the ad was identified as “sensitive content” by Facebook and rejected. She said similar Holocaust education advertisements were rejected for their “dangerous or derogatory” content. Sometimes, after she appeals the decision, the ad goes, which was the case with the YouTube program she promoted in June. But she says it’s a guessing game.

A screenshot shared with J. by one of the many Chabads interviewed for this article shows some of the issues Facebook reported when posting ads for the Outsmart Anti-Semitism course.

“What’s difficult is the total inconsistency of when these things are blocked or not. When we improve or promote a video and it gets rejected on YouTube or Facebook, we don’t know why, ”said Stein.

Stein began to create backup ads, “so that if something is refused, we have something that we think could be published.”

The museum has an average of 15 million Facebook engagements, with people commenting and sharing educational content, reaching nearly half a million people per day. Stein says half of that reach comes from paid advertising.

Last spring, social media posts comparing the Covid-19 vaccination status to Holocaust-era Jews wearing gold stars on their clothes circulated the internet. Stein prepared a Facebook ad to share information about the history of the Golden Stars. Time is running out, but his ad is stuck in an appeal process on Facebook. It never worked.

“Our ability to put history around this iconic symbol has been blocked. We lost a crucial opportunity to educate the public in the moment, ”said Stein.

For the Chabad rabbis, spreading the word about “Outsmarting anti-Semitism” was also urgent.

Ceitlin now trains around 30 students, some in Zoom and others in the classroom.

“What disappoints me is after they were told that this course was not meant to stir up hatred or fear… after hearing the nature of the course,” Ceitlin said, “why [Facebook] not stand up and say this is something we should be supporting? “


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