Justin Haskins: I advertised a video criticizing socialism, then Facebook banned my account

When those on the left can’t win an argument, they silence their opponents.

In January, The Heartland Institute launched an important effort to combat the rise of socialism in America. As one of the leaders of that effort, I, along with my colleague Donald Kendal, created a website devoted to discussing the dangers of socialism, StoppingSocialism.com, and delivered a speech to a large group of college students at Students for Liberty’s annual LibertyCon event in Washington, D.C., in January.

In February, I posted a highlight video to the Stopping Socialism Facebook page displaying the end of that speech, during which I called for millennials to reject the radical collectivism of Karl Marx and instead embrace the principles of the Founding Fathers: individual liberty, personal responsibility and free enterprise.

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After posting the video, I paid Facebook to advertise it, to increase the exposure to conservative audiences of the speech and the Stopping Socialism Facebook page – a practice I have done more than 100 times over the past couple of years without any problems. You can watch the video for yourself below.

Shortly after advertising the video, Facebook pulled the ad, citing “violations” of an obscure part of the site’s advertising policies. According to Facebook, videos can’t include older versions of Facebook’s logo, and the video includes a few tiny Facebook logo icons that appear in some of the screenshots of articles featured in the video. I appealed the decision to reject the ad, believing it to be a glitch in their system, and their support team subsequently reversed its original decision and approved the ad.

For a few days, all appeared to be well. The ad ran without any trouble. But later that week, my Facebook advertising account was suddenly and without explanation permanently disabled, something that has never occurred before. I appealed the decision to ban my account, expecting this to be yet another glitch, but Facebook’s advertising team wrote back to me and indicated that the decision to ban my advertising account was correct, because, “We don’t support ads for your business model” – presumably referring to StoppingSocialism.com and my other conservative Facebook pages – and because some of my posts “don’t follow our Advertising Policies.”

“There’s no further action that you may take here,” Facebook’s representative said, adding later, “Please consider this decision final.”

I appealed the decision several additional times in February and March, when I explained that it was my belief that my account was being closed because I was actively promoting anti-socialism material. In response to those messages, different members of the Facebook support team continued to respond with exactly the same message, which reads in part: “There’s no further action that you may take here. We don’t support ads for your business model.”

After two months of making appeals, Facebook finally provided me with a specific reason for banning my account. According to the site’s support team, “Specifically, it was disabled for running misleading ads,” presumably referring to the socialism video, the only ad running at the time Facebook banned my account.

When I asked them to explain exactly what it was about the video ad that was misleading, the representative wrote, “no additional details can be provided regarding the decision made on your account. With Policy cases, we often will hold back the red flags we use to identify violations to help preserve the integrity of out [sic] internal processes.”

In my final communication with Facebook, I told a member of Facebook’s advertising team that it seems they are banning me for my political views, especially because I’m an outspoken and well-read opponent of socialism. In response, I was told, “I understand why you feel this way, however this is all the information that we are abbe [sic] to provide. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

I wonder what it is about my “business model,” which is nothing more than fighting for individual liberty and against the Socialist ideals responsible for the death, exile, or imprisonment of more than 167 million people over the past century, that Facebook finds so distasteful and “misleading.” And what was it about the Stopping Socialism video ad that caused Facebook to close my account?

Was it my criticism of Socialists’ call to “confiscate property for the good of the collective”? Was it my rejection of the idea that government should be in charge of determining what is good and evil? Or perhaps it was my claim that “rights do not come from some government bureaucrat in Washington, D.C. … They are ours and no one can take them away from us. If they are taken away from us, it’s because we’ve allowed that to happen, not because they have a right to it. They are our rights.”

Facebook continues to refuse to explain exactly what it is about the socialism video that warrants banning me from ever advertising on the platform again, but based on the little information Facebook has provided, the answer seems obvious: StoppingSocialism.com’s mission doesn’t comply with Facebook’s commitment to left-wing policies, and Facebook would rather kowtow to the liberal mob than operate a platform that supports free political expression.

None of this should come as a surprise. In August 2018, one of Facebook’s own employees, Brian Amerige, a senior engineer, wrote on the company’s internal message board, “We are a political monoculture that’s intolerant of different views. We claim to welcome all perspectives, but are quick to attack – often in mobs – anyone who presents a view that appears to be in opposition to left-leaning ideology.”

In 2016, former Facebook employees admitted they deliberately kept conservative news stories from appearing in the site’s “trending” section.

The problem is not limited to Facebook, either. Polls have revealed the overwhelming majority of people working in Silicon Valley hold left-wing views, and a 2017 survey found 90 percent of those working in Silicon Valley who identified as “very conservative” said they feel uncomfortable sharing personal views at work.

The bias that exists at social media companies like Facebook and Twitter represent an existential threat to the conservative movement. Together, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are some of the world’s largest sources of news and media. When you add Google to the mix, the world’s most powerful search engine, and a company many experts say has worked to silence conservatives, it’s clear that those on the left have the power to shut down anyone they want, whenever they want. And as I have now experienced firsthand, they don’t have to provide an explanation.

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If conservatives don’t soon find an alternative way to provide general audiences on social media platforms with news, opinion, and analysis, they could one day be permanently shut out by the leftist elites in Silicon Valley.

If it can happen to me, it can happen to you.