A conservative network of Facebook pages with more than 1.5 million followers was reportedly shut down just a single day before the midterm elections.
21-year-old Addison Riddleberger founded numerous large pages with millions of followers. These pages address “many hot-button subjects through our Facebook distribution channel.” Riddleberger is also a former writer for Conservative Tribune. He founded pages like “Standing for Americans,” “Freedom Catalog” and “Patriotic Folks.”
“But that’s all come to a crashing halt as we’ve lost three crucial things in what appears to be a last-second midterm purge: I lost my personal Facebook account (it’s been disabled), we lost over 1.5 million Facebook followers, and the $25,000 in Facebook approved ads we spent building our network has simply gone down the drain,” Riddleberger recently explained in a news release.
He also stated in the release that he’s been careful about keeping up-to-date with the social media giant’s ever-changing policies on news.
He explained that “at 10:40 pm on November 4th, my personal Facebook account was disabled — where I am an administrator for the pages, where my family photos are posted, and where many years of my young life are documented.”
He went on to say that “Just hours later, at 12:52 am on November 5th — 24 hours before election day — the vague Facebook emails notifying us of our removed pages began rolling in. The emails were curt, but here’s the sentence that says it all: ‘Pages that are hateful, threatening, or obscene are not allowed. We also take down Pages that attack an individual or group, or that are set up by an unauthorized individual.’
“Our pages were not in violation of being ‘hateful, threatening, or obscene’, as we’ve published news nearly identical in tone for almost three years straight. Our pages were even vetted and approved for Facebook’s prestigious ‘Instant Articles’ feature, which has very strict rules about what kind of content can be published,” Riddleberger wrote.
In total, eight of his pages were ultimately unpublished or deleted. And these are huge pages.
“At the beginning of September, we published a story titled, “‘American Sniper” Wife Ends Silence, Goes Directly After Nike And Kaepernick,’ which ended up being the most shared/ engaged article in all of Facebook news for that week, as reported by NewsWhip,” Riddleberger penned.
On Monday, he was interviewed by The Western Journal. During the interview, Riddleberger said that he had simply gotten a “vague warning” from the social media network two days prior to the pages being taken down.
Conservative Tribune writes:
The automated messages didn’t provide a point of contact at Facebook, but listed a number of ambiguous reasons pages could be deleted — including sending users to so-called “ad farms” that provide little content but are loaded with ads.
At the time, Riddleberger said, he and his team believed this was the culprit; they had started with a new ad company just days before. To be as careful as possible, they not only cut off ties with the company but went ad-free for several days.
This made no difference. The pages were terminated anyhow.
“I mean, I’m so clueless as to what’s going on because — to spend 25 grand on (Facebook advertising) and to not have a Facebook rep reach out and jump on a call and say, ‘hey, your investment is at risk of being completely removed, you need to really look at this’ … is absolutely sickening and completely unprofessional,” Riddleberger said.
Was it offensive or sensationalistic content? That would require the content to be flagged offensive, according to Facebook guidelines — and, according to Riddleberger, none of his content has ever been flagged.
Riddleberger’s team felt that the only possible culprit, if Facebook was indeed following its own rules when it suspended the accounts, was that it felt that Riddleberger’s account was fake. That, he said, would explain why his personal account was taken down as well.
“Nothing else makes sense,” Riddleberger said.
This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, though. He said that he had been given the clear to run political ads on the social media network. This is not an easy process to go through. One must go through “extensive identification” following the infamous Russian ad scandal back in the 2016 presidential election cycle. In order to get that verification, Riddleberger explained that he was forced to give “extensive proof of who he was.”
He explained that he had to show them his passport.
Facebook knew he was a real person.
“How unfair is it for them to claim you’ve possibly done multiple things and then leave it to you to figure out in 24 hours what exactly you’re doing when you have an entire company and an entire (group) of pages posting articles with completely different content?” Riddleberger questioned. “How exactly are you expected to drill down and figure out exactly the one issue they want you to fix is with these automated, vague, Big Brother-like Facebook messages?”
Facebook admitted to making an error. “This ad does not violate Facebook’s policies and should never have been disapproved,” a Facebook representative explained to the USA Today Network.
“We’re sorry for this mistake — the ad has been restored and is now running on Facebook.”
Last month, hundreds of Conservative pages were deleted.
“Many were using fake accounts or multiple accounts with the same names and posted massive amounts of content across a network of Groups and Pages to drive traffic to their websites. Many used the same techniques to make their content appear more popular on Facebook than it really was. Others were ad farms using Facebook to mislead people into thinking that they were forums for legitimate political debate,” a statement from Facebook claimed, as reported by Heavy.
Conservative Tribune explains, “many of the pages almost certainly didn’t fall under that umbrella. One was John Hawkins’ Right Wing News, a fixture in the conservative media movement. The Free Thought Project, another Facebook fixture that would more than occasionally delve into conspiracy-tastic nonsense but certainly wasn’t outright fake news, was also shut down.”
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