Facebook unblocks Right to Life of Michigan ads

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Facebook on Monday reinstated Right to Life of Michigan’s advertising account after the anti-abortion nonprofit alleged it had been wrongly targeted in a “fake news” purge.

A Facebook spokesperson said the ads were taken down by mistake

The social media giant shut down the Right to Life ad account on April 18, according to the nonprofit, which said it received an automated explanation that the account was disabled “for running misleading ads that resulted in high negative feedback from people on Facebook.”

Right to Life speculated Facebook shut down the account for an ad it ran a week earlier promoting the organization’s blog entry headlined “Grand Rapids abortionist has license suspended, fined $10,000.” The Facebook post included an image of a sleeping baby.

The nonprofit noted that WZZM-TV in Grand Rapids also reported the 60-day suspension of Dr. Thomas Gordon, the director of a Grand Rapids clinic who the state says failed to properly notify regulators about past criminal convictions.

“Our most reasonable guess is that a Facebook staff person hostile to pro-life views decided to block our ad account based on a personal animus or snap judgment regarding the facts of a true news story,” Right to Life said in a Monday blog post.

Facebook said it reinstated the ad account after The Detroit News asked about the Right to Life’s arguments.

“Our team processes millions of advertising images each week, and we sometimes make mistakes,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “This image does not violate our ad policies. We apologize for the error and have let the advertiser know we are approving their ad."

Right to Life communications director Chris Gast confirmed the ad account had been restored but said he is not aware of any contact from Facebook.

“We’re happy it’s up, but it’s really perplexing,” Gast said. “They did not really explain what happened.”

Right to Life has run 10 Facebook ads over the past year, reaching about 233,602 people, according to the organization, which filed a complaint against Facebook with the Better Business Bureau in California.

“That’s a quarter million people that we wouldn’t be able to reach,” Gast said. “It was more concerning just about the process and the transparency of the whole issue. This could certainly affect us again without notice.”