In a post last week I reported allegations that Facebook’s advertising policies might be homophobic. Pink AccuraCast, a gay-oriented ad agency in the UK, tried to place ads for an online poll asking viewers to pick the best gay commercial of all-time, only to have Facebook reject the ads. In case you missed it, Adrian from Pink AccuraCast commented on the post, giving more examples of Facebook’s homophobic policies, including a much-publicized rejected ad for the lesbian-themed movie And Then Came Lola (Thanks for the info Adrian!).
In an email exchange with Pink AccuraCast, Facebook claimed the agency’s ads were “irrelevant or inappropriate,” which I find extremely hard to believe. After doing some research, I found this article from the New York Times that discusses Facebook’s crackdown on misguided ads, but the ads the agency wanted to run were neither irrelevant or inappropriate. The article also mentions that Facebook doesn’t review each ad, but instead relies on user feedback to flag inappropriate material. Pink AccuraCast’s ads were targeted to gay men, so I can’t imagine why this target demo would find the ads inappropriate.
This leads me to believe that the problem is not that Facebook is homophobic, but rather that they can’t get basic ad targeting right. I have read a lot of complaints from straight folks grumbling about being targeted by gay-themed ads on Facebook (here, and here are a few examples). There’s even a Facebook page dedicated to banning gay ads on Facebook (a hilarious line from one from one of the wall posts: “I’m not homophobic, in fact I’m for gay rights, but still, when I see “gogo undies for hot gay fierce boys,” I have to do something.”) If this is the case and the problem is with Facebook’s targeting capabilities, they should just say so rather than having us believe their policy’s are homophobic.