Facebook is a bully!!!!

I write a newsletter for residents of Martin County, Florida about local government. I also write pieces about Florida and the U.S. economy and government which appear mostly on Medium and blogs. While the newsletter goes to 20,000 email addresses, my other articles rely heavily on Facebook boosts to garner readers.

Since the election, Facebook has refused to accept my boosted posts. They claim they are of a political nature as if I were running ads as a political party or candidate. This is ridiculous. No one who reads what I write could possibly think so.

Through the years, I complied with all of Facebook’s ridiculous requirements to run ads. I provided a copy of my passport and driver’s license to insure I was a real person. Before I was approved, it took two months to verify that I was a real person and not a bot. Almost laughably, part of the verification process is a letter they send in a plain white envelope without identification to your address using snail mail.

Even though I have never used crude language, made outlandish claims, supported any political party or endorsed any candidate for office, my page was labeled as political instead of what it is…a place to write about public policy. I wonder if the Washington Post is subject to the same restrictions.

I knew that I would have problems when last year I tried to advertise a piece I wrote about a local seafood festival. I used a photo of an old fisherman smoking a pipe. They refused to run the ad because their algorithm thought it glamorized tobacco products. I was going to take down the photo and change the title. Finally, time forced me to move on to the next project.

There is no person that I could have called to plead my case. You can ask for a review. The inevitable denial and form answer are produced by another algorithm with the only human in the equation being me.

I can survive this precarious predicament, but other businesses and nonprofits probably won’t. The New York Times ran a story on November 17th that outlined how nonprofits and businesses were being hurt by this policy. It explains how one business that sells socks made by homeless youth can no longer advertise. They are being treated as if they were a Trump ad instead of trying to address a serious social problem.

Facebook is a private company and should be able to take ads they deem appropriate. They are also a monopoly that controls social media. My newsletter exists because newspapers can no longer economically survive in local markets. I perform a valuable service to my readers, and I do not charge them for it. I would suggest that Facebook, because of their monopolistic hold, should be treated as a public utility.

There needs to be something more than an algorithm controlling my fate and that of hundreds of thousands of others who rely on this advertising structure. I am a real person whose identity was vetted several years ago by Facebook. There is nothing in any ad I ran in the past to suggest any lie or even anything incendiary.

I am not an algorithm and neither are the other nonprofits and small businesses that need this medium to reach their customers. Facebook needs to stop being a bully and address our concerns.

Currently lives in Stuart Florida and former City Commissioner. His career has been as a commercial real estate owner, broker and manger in New York City.

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