RNLA member Mark Meuser is running for Secretary of State in California, but Facebook has twice refused to verify his campaign's account. Under Facebook's new advertising policy, this prevents Mr. Meuser's campaign account from advertising on Facebook:
Facebook has banned me from advertising with them because I do not have a verified page. Let’s forget the fact that I twice tried to verify my page but Facebook denied my verification for reasons that were completely made up. (Remember that I am a lawyer and I read the reason they were denying me and the reasons they gave was completely fictitious because I had already given them the info they requested.)
Sounds to me like Facebook would like an unfair competition lawsuit being brought against them for changing their rules to affect a campaign that only has one week to the election. I understand that I am not the only campaign this is affecting. What is funny is that this happened on the day I was reading a book written by a leftist who is complaining about the Russian Facebook advertising. I guess Facebook reacted so swiftly that they forgot they were silencing valid campaign spending.
Mr. Meuser identifies the crux of the problem with social media's overreaction to claims of Russian interference in the 2016 election through online advertisements. In their efforts to restrict foreign agents, foreign bots, and other bad actors, social media companies are restricting the speech of Americans as well. Consider the expansiveness of Facebook's new advertisement requirements:
Facebook is now enforcing its new policies for political and issue-related ads. Announced last month, the new rules require all advertisers running political or issue ads on the platform to verify their identity and location. US election and issue ads will have to be clearly labeled and will include “Paid for” information to identify the person or organization behind the ad.
Instead of using a definition of political recognized by the FEC, the IRS, or the legal community, Facebook is broadly defining political to include genuine issue ads. Organizations from the Sierra Club to The Heritage Foundation will have to follow Facebook's rules for "political" ads. As a private company, the First Amendment does not prevent Facebook from placing restrictions on certain kinds of speech. But if Facebook is inconsistently and unequally verifying political campaigns and thereby preventing them from advertising, as it did with Mark Meuser's campaign, it is wading into murky legal waters and opening itself to further public backlash.