Facebook took down a political ad from the British Conservative Party ahead of the UK General Election on December 12. Facebook allows politicians and political parties to lie or mislead in their advertisements; however, Facebook will take down political ads if it violates its advertising policy.
Facebook’s advertising policy states, “ads must not contain content that infringes upon or violates the rights of any third party, including copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity or other personal or proprietary rights.”
The Conservative Party ad was an election video, which contained a clip from the BBC. The BBC complained that the video clip was taken out of context in a way that could cause a misrepresentation and distortion of its journalism. “This is a completely unacceptable use of BBC content which distorts our output and which could damage perceptions of our impartiality. We are asking the Conservatives to remove these adverts,” the BBC said. In the advertisement, a BBC journalist stated phrases like, “pointless delay to Brexit” while protest clips and parliament debates were shown with dramatic music. The clips were taken from reporters quoting politicians’ statements, such as those from Boris Johnson. The Conservative Party was asked to take down the ad by the BBC but refused to do so. Facebook stepped in and banned the ad because the Conservatives used BBC footage without its permission.
The Conservative Party told the BBC, “[a]ll political parties make use of BBC content. We will be asking the BBC if in the interests of fairness they intend to complain about other political parties who use their content.” It will be interesting to see if Facebook takes down other political ads that use the BBC’s footage.
“Whenever we receive valid IP claims against content on the platform, in advertising or elsewhere, we act in accordance with our policies and take action as required,” a spokesperson for Facebook said.
The Conservatives disagree with Facebook and the BBC. “This video uses contemporary news footage to remind voters of the deadlock and delay of the last three years caused by a broken Parliament that did everything it could to block Brexit. Viewers can judge for themselves but it is clear the footage was not edited in a manner that misleads or changes the reporting,” a spokesperson for the Conservative Party said.
Facebook’s political advertisement policy has faced recent scrutiny after Twitter and Google have made adjustments to their political advertisement policy by a wide-sweeping ban or restriction, respectively. Facebook made it clear that it would not monitor political ads for accuracy, though it has now monitored ads for legal purposes.
The ad was seen approximately 430,000 times and cost the Conservative Party less than £10,000 ($12,930).