Christian Gospel Song Censored for ‘Political Content’ by Facebook
A Christian gospel group from Indianapolis is one of the latest to be censored under Facebook’s recent policy on advertisements it considers to be political.
In mid-June, the music group, Zion’s Joy, posted their new song “What Would Heaven Look Like” on the social media giant’s platform. But after they decided to “boost” the video by paying Facebook to promote it, the video was blocked.
The song itself features spiritual lyrics in the style of a Christian praise song. The first 30 seconds of the video also include scenes of unrest, depicting protesters waving the American flag and being carried away in stretchers. The majority of the four-minute video shows the group singing in a recording studio.
Lyrics included phrases such as “People of every color loving one another, tell me” and “Bigotry and hate are absent, only love and peace are present, tell me.”
On July 1, Facebook removed the video, marking it as “political content.” Under their new rules, “all election-related and issue ads on Facebook and Instagram in the US must be clearly labeled—including a ‘Paid for by’ disclosure from the advertiser at the top of the ad.”
A Facebook spokeswoman later apologised for the post’s removal and said in a statement that their policy is “new, broad and exists to prevent election interference, so we’re asking people with content that falls under those rules to simply get authorized and show who paid for the ad in order for it to run.”
The statement continued: “Separately, we made an error by deleting the original post. As soon as we identified what happened, we restored the post since it does not violate our Community Standards and have apologized to Zion’s Joy.”
Facebook aims to identify political content with both artificial intelligence and a team of human reviewers that will work in unison to analyze advertisement’s images, text, and the outside websites to which they point to. According to TechCrunch, about 3,000 to 4,000 new advertisement reviewers were hired this year.
Zion’s Joy did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Facebook has been marred with controversy over a string of recent incidents for mistakenly marking nonpolitical advertisements as political content.
Earlier this month, Texas newspaper the Liberty County Vindicator was notified by Facebook for promoting hate speech after they posted excerpts from the Declaration of Independence. Facebook later apologized for their error (the editor of the paper suspects that the phrase “Indian Savages” may have played a part).
In another case, Facebook prevented Nashville-based Wes Cook Band from using it’s paid tools to promote a song titled “I Stand for the Flag” on July 3. The request, initially approved by Facebook, was later rejected after the company cited the song’s “political content.” Facebook again apologized for the incident.
Facebook algorithms even blocked the promotion of a pistachio rosewater cake from the New York Times cooking page, after labeling it as political content.
Amid the mounting criticisms, the U.S. House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on Tuesday, July 17, to take testimony from Facebook, Google, and Twitter on whether they are filtering content due to political bias. It’s the second such hearing on this topic. The first occurred on April 26 and included witnesses such as popular conservative pro-Trump video bloggers Diamond and Silk, who accused Facebook of censoring their content.
Conservatives and Republicans have long criticised Facebook and other major social media platforms for censoring their views. In January, multiple current and former Twitter employees admitted the company censors conservatives and “shadow bans” people who express right-wing viewpoints, an undercover video from Project Veritas uncovered.
Some have called for an “Internet Bill of Rights” as seen in a White House petition to protect online free speech. It argues that forums and social networks “should not be subjected to censorship due to political beliefs or differing ideas.”