Facebook Marks LGBTQ Advertisements as Political, Blocking Them Again

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Facebook is again receiving criticism for taking action against LGBTQ advertising, with ads for a comedy show and social groups, among others, being blocked on the site.

Los Angeles-based comedian Matt Marr, for instance, said the ad he posted for his show CabarGAY in August was blocked on Facebook on the grounds that it was "political," The Washington Post reports. Facebook told the Post the blocking of ads for being political came as a result of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

This is not the first time Facebook has blocked LGBTQ advertisements, nor even the first time it has come under fire for doing so. The Post plowed through Facebook's public database for advertisements and found that many ads with LGBTQ content had in fact been banned on the grounds of having "political" material.

Facebook spokeswoman Devon Kearns said the blocking was unintentional. "The ones that were incorrectly labeled have been removed from the archive and we apologize for the error," she told the Post via email. "We do not consider all ads that relate to LGBT under this policy, but rather only those that advocate for various policies or political positions, which several of these ads do." 

While Facebook maintains that the blocking of LGBTQ ads was accidental, the social media site has a history of failing to stop anti-LGBTQ hate speech, while managing to keep LGBTQ-themed ads from users. The chief executive of Long Island's nonprofit LGBT Network, David Kilmnick, told the Post that about 15 of the ads the organization put on Facebook this year were blocked. Gay dating app Scruff's cofounder Eric Silverberg has also attested to Facebook's seeming aversion to LGBTQ ads and content.

“As a gay-owned and GBTQ-focused business that has been blocked from advertising on Facebook for the past 4 years, we sympathize with the LGBT community organizations that are also suffering under Facebook's opaque and inconsistent policies," Silverberg said in an email to The Advocate.  "We recognize the right of private businesses to determine who can use or advertise on their platforms, but given Facebook's dominant position, we encourage more scrutiny applied to their practices. Ultimately, the LGBTQ community deserves greater transparency from Facebook to ensure that we enjoy the same digital rights as heterosexual Americans, which include the right to promote causes and business without fear of harassment, censorship, or suspensions.” 

Facebook declined to answer the Post's question of how its "filtering process works and how much of the filtering was driven by algorithms rather than human monitors."

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