Facebook Backtracks, Takes Down “Sponsored” Campaign Posts Supporting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 2 2014 5:41 PM

Facebook Backtracks, Takes Down “Sponsored” Campaign Posts Supporting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad

syriafacebook
Screenshot of "sponsored" content for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Screenschot from Adsfordictators.org

A presence on Facebook is a pretty standard part of any political campaign these days. But when the political campaign is designed to re-elect Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to another term, things get a little bit more complicated.

The Syria Campaign took Facebook to task on Monday launching an online petition for the social media company to shut down Assad’s Sawa campaign on the site. The Sawa page has been up for nearly a month ahead of tomorrow’s scheduled election in Syria, but the group's latest discovery added an extra helping of outrage, via the Guardian: “Advertisements for the Sawa campaign briefly appeared alongside some people’s Facebook pages, depending on their likes and interests; according to the activists, such ads have appeared alongside the pages of Syrians who stand against the Assad regime.”

Advertisement

While that may seem like some pretty shoddy algorithm work by Facebook, there’s also the problem of the page showing up in newsfeeds as “sponsored,” which at the very least means Facebook is doing business with supporters of a dictator that has been accused of using chemical weapons against his own people in a conflict that has killed more than 150,000 people.  

Here’s more from the Guardian:

Facebook said the ads had been placed from outside Syria and had been taken down, as they contravened the company’s advertising policy. "The ads you referenced are no longer on our platform. We terminated these ads. As always, we take down ads that violate our policies,” said a spokesperson. “We comply with all relevant Syrian sanctions and do not permit ads originating from or targeting Syria.” The spokesperson said Facebook was not currently considering dropping the Sawa site. “With over a billion users around the world, Facebook permits freedom of expression and we want to make sure people feel comfortable coming to Facebook to discuss what’s important to them, while making sure we maintain a safe and respectful community,” he said.

“A Facebook representative refused to say how much money was exchanged for the advertisement or what would happen with the money,” the Washington Post reports.

Elliot Hannon is a writer in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Irritating Confidante

John Dickerson on Ben Bradlee’s fascinating relationship with John F. Kennedy.

My Father Invented Social Networking at a Girls’ Reform School in the 1930s

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

The All The President’s Men Scene That Captured Ben Bradlee

Medical Examiner

Is It Better to Be a Hero Like Batman?

Or an altruist like Bruce Wayne?

Technology

Driving in Circles

The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.

The World’s Human Rights Violators Are Signatories on the World’s Human Rights Treaties

How Punctual Are Germans?

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 12:44 AM We Need More Ben Bradlees His relationship with John F. Kennedy shows what’s missing from today’s Washington journalism.
  Business
Moneybox
Oct. 21 2014 5:57 PM Soda and Fries Have Lost Their Charm for Both Consumers and Investors
  Life
The Vault
Oct. 21 2014 2:23 PM A Data-Packed Map of American Immigration in 1903
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 21 2014 3:03 PM Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 21 2014 1:02 PM Where Are Slate Plus Members From? This Weird Cartogram Explains. A weird-looking cartogram of Slate Plus memberships by state.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 9:42 PM The All The President’s Men Scene That Perfectly Captured Ben Bradlee’s Genius
  Technology
Technology
Oct. 21 2014 11:44 PM Driving in Circles The autonomous Google car may never actually happen.
  Health & Science
Climate Desk
Oct. 21 2014 11:53 AM Taking Research for Granted Texas Republican Lamar Smith continues his crusade against independence in science.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.