As part of its renewed commitment to protect the sanctity of the 2020 Election and its cause of eradicating misinformation within its platforms, Facebook bans advertisements that are run by Falun Gong-related publication and conservative news outlet, The Epoch Times.
Facebook issued the ban against The Epoch Times after reports revealed that the organization has been sidestepping misinformation policies of the social media platform in order to run ads promoting Donald Trump and other conspiracy theories across Facebook.
Back in July, the Facebook accounts owned by The Epoch Times have been removed by Facebook in its platform for violating Community Standards; however, recent reports reveal that the organizations have been running ads on Facebook through new Facebook accounts with different names.
The ads ran under page names such as “Honest Paper” and “Pure American Journalism” and purchased by MarketFuel Subscription Services and Perpetual Market, which are decoy names for The Epoch Times, as detailed in an article published by NBC News, who exposed the clandestine operations of the organization.
“Over the past year we removed accounts associated with The Epoch Times for violating our ad policies,” Tom Channick, a Facebook representative, said in a statement. “We acted on additional accounts today, and they are no longer able to advertise with us.”
The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by a group of Chinese-Americans affiliated with the religious group Falun Gong. The organization capitalizes in pro-Trump sentiments and in proliferating misinformation and conspiracy theories that enabled them to gain enough Facebook following. The organization does not only operate on Facebook, though. In its website, The Epoch Times is publishing contents regarding anti-vaccination and other conspiracy theories. In Youtube, they are also posting videos to promote Donald Trump.
Stephen Gregory, the publisher of The Epoch Times, admitted that they owned the aforementioned pages saying that Facebook did not respond to their inquiries on why their pages were taken down by the social media platform. As a response, they decided to start “publishing its advertising on a number of other, new Facebook pages.” He added that “these ads were overtly Epoch Times advertisements for our subscription.”
The Epoch Times spent around $2 million on Facebook ads, NBC News said, many of them pro-Trump. Facebook declined to comment regarding its decision to ban advertisement run by The Epoch Times.
As the 2020 Elections are nearing, and with the lessons they earned from scandals like the Cambridge Analytica, Facebook has been implementing policies to protect the sanctity of the elections as well as to combat the rampant misinformation on its platform.
Facebook updates ad policies to fight misinformation
In July, the San Francisco-based company announced that it will update its Civil Rights Audit and will strengthen its fight against misinformation that obscure public political opinions.
“Civil rights are the foundation of a free and just society — and something we care deeply about as a company. We want to make sure we’re advancing civil rights on our platform, and today we’re sharing a second report that details our efforts,” Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, wrote in a statement.
As part of the reforms in the company’s misinformation position, the company is also implementing changes in its Community Standards and ad policy.
The announcement, penned by Sandberg, said that Facebook, through its renewed and strengthened commitment on the fight against misinformation, political bias, and discrimination, is updating their policies and strengthening their enforcement against harmful and intimidating contents.
Earlier this year, Facebook launched a crackdown against white supremacists in its platform, and many contents, pages, and groups were taken down as a result. However, they have found out that several contents still pass through their filters because of how they are framed. As part of their update, they will now include contents that have white supremacist themes even if the terms “white nationalism” and “white separatism” aren’t explicitly used.
Furthermore, they are also moving towards ways to make sure that the platform will not be used to organize “events that intimidate or harass people based on their race, religion, or other parts of their identity.”
“Getting our policies right is just one part of the solution. We also need to get better at enforcement — both in taking down and leaving up the right content,” Sandberg wrote.