Will Facebook Do an About-Face? The Details Behind the Facebook Saga

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Facing The Facts-

The Details Behind the Facebook Saga:

In an effort to elevate awareness for scleroderma, I wrote this article on Wednesday, July 22.

It received over 600 shares, so I wanted to “boost my post” by placing an ad for it on Facebook.

I received the following notification from Facebook:

Your ad wasn’t approved because it includes “before and after” images, or other images showing unexpected or unlikely results. It’s also recommended that you avoid focusing on specific body parts, because these images typically receive high negative feedback.

Before resubmitting your ad, please visit our policy site to learn more and see examples of ads that meet our guidelines.

If you’ve read the policies and think your ad follows the rules and should have been approved, please let us know.”

 I contested the ad being rejected by writing this to the FB ad team:

‘Please describe your question related to your ad that wasn’t approved (required)

My ad is to spread awareness for a rare autoimmune disease; scleroderma. These two pictures represent the different ways that scleroderma impacts patients. I ask that someone in your department please read the article and explain why it was not approved. This is not a “before and after” type ad. It is a serious article on a serious disease. Thank you.”

Here’s the response I got from “Rachel”:

We sent you a message

Jul 27

“Hi Lisa,

I’ve taken a look at your ads and see that we weren’t able to accept them because of the image used. Please note that we don’t allow images that promote an ideal body/physical image (i.e. before and after images). If you’d like to create new ads, please make sure to choose an image that complies with all guidelines.

For more information including examples and explanations of our ad policies, please visit:
https://www.facebook.com/help/adpolicy

You can also review our guidelines by visiting:
http://www.facebook.com/ad_guidelines.php .

Rachel
Facebook Ads Team
Facebook”

I described my emotions regarding this message in my article: Facebook Doesn’t Like My Face and posted it at 11 pm on July 27.

The article was widely shared (it’s been shared over 20,000 times as of today) and caught the attention of Yahoo Canada. I live in Chicago, but am now a huge fan of Canada!  I am quite grateful to Ms. Tori Floyd for sending me the following email on Tuesday, July 28.

‘Hi Lisa,

I’m an editor with Yahoo Canada, and I recently came across your post about your recent experience with Facebook:

Facebook Doesn’t Like My Face: To the Facebook Ad Team that Told Me My Face Would Receive “High Negative Feedback”
We’d like to run a post on your story, and I was wondering if you had a few minutes for an interview, either by email or phone?

Tori Floyd

Senior Editor, Features

Yahoo Canada

I gave a phone interview with Ms. Floyd at 11:00 am on Wednesday July 29th.  Before the article even went live, I got an email from Facebook saying they had made an error and would run my ad!

Here’s what it said:

“Hi Lisa,

Thanks for reaching out to our team. It appears your ads were mistakenly disapproved, and we’ve re-reviewed and approved them. I’m sorry for any inconvenience this caused.
Please note that although we approved your ads, these ads may remain paused until you resume them. You can access your ads and change their status at any time by going to your Ads Manager or by clicking on the “Ads” tab in the Applications menu when you are logged in to your account.

Let me know if you need any further clarifications or assistance from my end. Have a great day!

Thanks,
Isabella
Facebook”

I was at the school where I teach, setting up my classroom (yes, teachers DO work in the summer) when all this went down. I did the Yahoo interview in my tiny little reading specialist office surrounded by boxes that needed unloading. I immediately posted the email from Facebook on my personal Facebook page, my Comfortable in My Thick Skin business Facebook page and multiple scleroderma Facebook pages where people had been actively supporting me. I wanted to let everyone know the great news! I copied and pasted “Isabella’s” email to my posts and then wrote:

“Just got this from the Ad team at Facebook!!!!! Thanks to all of you who’ve rallied to support this issue. I will be writing back to them with a copy of my most recent article, so that they might consider taking a closer look at their policy and how it is communicated. Hip hip hooray for us!!!!

I emailed Ms. Floyd at Yahoo to thank her, and tell her the good news that Facebook had reversed their decision. She sent me this email back:

“Terrific! So glad it’s worked out in the end, and is resulting in more awareness. I reached out to my contact at FB and after looking into it, she said that the image was rejected in error. I’ll still be running the story (should be later today) but I’ll make sure this happy development is included!”

Soon after her email, the article she wrote went live on Yahoo.

Here’s the link:

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-buzz/woman-s-ad-showing-her-face-rejected-by-facebook-for-high-chance-of–negative-feedback-191624750.html

I shared the article on my business Facebook page (Comfortable in My Thick Skin) and once again, got a pop-up from FB prompting me to boost the post, since it was getting so much attention.  Excited, I paid my $20.00 and eagerly awaited for my ad to go through. Guess what happened next?

FB automated rejection take 2

I got the same exact message as I had the last time. Okay, I get it. Although I was trying to boost the post with the same picture that had just recently been approved, it was not the same ad. This time, I was trying to boost the ad that featured the Yahoo article which ended by explaining FB had made an error and would run my previously rejected post (I might use this story to teach my students about the concept of irony).

I once again wrote to the ad team at Facebook stating:

“What you submitted

Please describe your question related to your ad that wasn’t approved (required)

I have read your policies and believe my ad is compliant with them. This is not a “before and after” photo. These are two different women who both suffer from the same disease, scleroderma. The purpose of the ad is to illustrate the different ways people are impacted by this rare disease. I respectfully request that someone in your ad department read the actual article to gain a better understanding. Thank you.”

I was confident that if someone actually even glimpsed at the article (again, it was the Yahoo article describing the ordeal and ending with Facebook apologizing for the error) surely then, my ad would be approved.

Here’s what I got back.

“Hi Lisa,
I’ve taken a look at your ads and see that we weren’t able to accept them because of the image used. Please note that we don’t allow images that promote an ideal body/physical image (i.e. before and after images). If you’d like to create new ads, please make sure to choose an image that complies with all guidelines.
For more information including examples and explanations of our ad policies, please visit:
https://www.facebook.com/help/adpolicy
You can also review our guidelines by visiting:
http://www.facebook.com/ad_guidelines.php .
Frank
Facebook Ads Team
Facebook”

Hm….I may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’m beginning to think “Rachel” and “Frank” may not be real people (GASP).  Since all of this went down, I’ve gotten multiple requests for media interviews and my blog stats are exploding!

Here’s what I want everyone to know:

  1. I don’t want to wage a war with Facebook! I need Facebook to help me spread my message! Facebook is a wonderful tool that allows people to communicate in ways previous generations never dreamed possible. Their company has the power to influence society in ways one person alone could never do. I hope Facebook will view this as an opportunity to lead by example and modify their communication system when rejecting ads. I know we live in an automated world, but I believe there’s still room for sensitivity in this digital age.
  2. I recognize this is a trivial issue! I realize the fate of the world does not hinge on if my FB ad gets approved or rejected. However, my experience signifies a far bigger problem; how people react to others who deviate from the “norm.”  I would love to participate with the Ad Team at Facebook in examining their policies. What was it in my photo that got flagged in the first place? Do they flag any photo that looks like a’ before and after’ photo? If that’s the case, then why was it also “recommended that you avoid focusing on specific body parts, because these images typically receive high negative feedback.”
  3. I completely understand the purpose of automated messaging, but can their wording perhaps be changed? Also, when an actual “human” does review an ad, I believe they should do more than spit back the same automated message. If I am not getting a message from an actual human, is it fair to attach a human name to the message?
  4. I hope people who read my story will reflect on how we define beauty as a society. I hope they will be inspired to get to know people for who they are and cultivate relationships with others who are different from themselves. This was the entire point of my original article that started this whole mess in the first place. As an elementary school teacher and a mom, it is particularly important to me that we teach this to children at a young age. Our children are “digital natives” and must be taught how to navigate through our electronic world, while still treating others with dignity and respect.

 

9 Comments »

  1. Helfand you are amazing. What can I do to help? I can’t lift anything because my arm is still healing, but I can write (lefty Miller) or pass out literature. Let me know.

    Like

  2. Lisa,
    you’re doing an awesome job spreading awareness for everyone living with autoimmune diseases especially Scleroderma. I’m proud of you for standing up for yourself and for being brave by sharing and allowing your face that has been disfigured by Scleroderma to be seen without make-up or filters. The body images that the world deems as exceptable is full of vanity and unreal. Beauty blossoms from within! The bible says, “God created his children in his image” and that is what I focus on every time a person with low self-esteem and lack of morale tells me that I’m ugly. Thanks for not letting Facebook automated responses deter you from the bigger picture which is spreading awareness for every person living with Scleroderma, a hard word to pronounce and understand.

    Like

  3. I can’t see the photo, but kudos! As a scleroderma patient of 24 years, I’m so tired of people asking me about the “rash” on my face. It’s called telangiectasias folks, blood vessels that are close to the skin surface, not contagious. Like any other woman, sometimes I just don’t feel like wearing make up.

    Like

  4. Hey lisa … You surely doing a brave thing. I m scleroderma warrior from india. Here people don’t even have a clue about this. I myself has educated about this disease thorugh internet even my family sometimes don’t understand what i am going through.

    Best part i learned from your whole activity you didn’t get disheartned at all while facebook was responding all negatively.
    I sometimes get upset with the world and feel tired.

    I wish you all the best for this national campaigne … hope it goes international some day and make people aware about this.

    Like

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