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

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.”


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.



Forget Oculus Rift

This $25 cardboard box turns your phone into an incredibly fun virtual reality experience.

The Congressional Republican Digging Through Scientists’ Grant Proposals

Renée Zellweger’s New Face Is Too Real

Sleater-Kinney Was Once America’s Best Rock Band

Can it be again?

Whole Foods Is Desperate for Customers to Feel Warm and Fuzzy Again

The XX Factor

I’m 25. I Have $250.03.

My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

The XX Factor
Oct. 20 2014 6:17 PM I’m 25. I Have $250.03. My doctors want me to freeze my eggs.

Smash and Grab

Will competitive Senate contests in Kansas and South Dakota lead to more late-breaking races in future elections?

George Tiller’s Murderer Threatens Another Abortion Provider, Claims Free Speech

These Companies in Japan Are More Than 1,000 Years Old

  News & Politics
The World
Oct. 21 2014 3:13 PM Why Countries Make Human Rights Pledges They Have No Intention of Honoring
Oct. 21 2014 4:33 PM Walmart Is Killing the Rest of Corporate America in Solar Power Adoption
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.
Brow Beat
Oct. 21 2014 1:47 PM The Best Way to Fry an Egg
Future Tense
Oct. 21 2014 4:14 PM Planet Money Uncovers One Surprising Reason the Internet Is Sexist
  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 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.