Facebook rejects ad criticizing actions of Zuckerberg political group

April 30, 2013

Facebook has rejected an advertisement from a group criticizing the actions of Fwd.us, the political group started by Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg and several other prominent members of the technology community.

CREDO Mobile, a mobile carrier that lobbies on progressive issues, has been an outspoken critic of the Keystone XL Pipeline. It has launched a campaign to protest ads funded by Zuckerberg’s lobbying group, Fwd.us, that support pipeline proponent Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.).

Fwd.us is funding the ads, which laud Graham for supporting the pipeline, through an offshoot organization called Americans for a Conservative Direction. Some political observers see the ads as a way of helping Graham retain support among conservatives even as he backs immigration reform.

CREDO Mobile has criticized Facebook, and Zuckerberg in particular, in the past and protested the executive’s fundraiser for New Jersey’s Republican governor Chris Christie. But the group has also paid Facebook to run ads for its other campaigns, and has used the social network to organize events, encourage supporters to sign petitions and to raise awareness of other campaigns.

The most recent CREDO Mobile ad shows an image of Mark Zuckerberg’s face next to the words “Hey Zuck, Pull your ads supporting Keystone XL.” The ad also uses the Obama for America logo to represent the “O” in Keystone.

The ad was rejected when CREDO tried to post it to the social network. According to an e-mail the company received from Facebook, the ad violates Facebook policies because it users Zuckerberg’s image.

Facebook policies do state that it will reject ads that contain Facebook logos, icons or trademarked images in a way that falls outside of its usage guidelines or if the advertisements incorrectly imply the social network has given its “partnership, sponsorship or endorsement” to the ad.

In a statement, Facebook said it generally rejects “ads that contain Mark’s image because – not surprisingly – in our experience those ads tend to be confusing for users, and frequently misleading. Users may click on the ad thinking it is a message from Mark or from Facebook, not understanding that they are actually in an advertisement seeking to take advantage of Mark’s image.”

CREDO Mobile political director Becky Bond criticized the policy, saying that it should not apply when groups criticize Zuckerberg’s private actions outside of his role as Facebook’s chief executive officer.

Given Zuckerberg’s growing involvement in politics, Bond said, she thinks it’s ridiculous that “you can’t use Facebook ads to talk about what Mark Zuckerberg is doing.”

She said that the ad would not be as effective without Zuckerberg’s face, though the group has not tested how effective the ad would be without the image.

(The Washington Post Co. chairman and chief executive Donald E. Graham is a member of Facebook’s board of directors.)

Related stories:

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg: Immigration and the knowledge economy

Facebook flexes political muscle with provision in immigration bill

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Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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