Gallery Exposes Weakness In Facebook's Ad Approval

Danish gallery Beck-Fischer reports that Facebook's advertising panel rejects an identical ad roughly half of the time the proprietor submits a bid, and the rejections call the imagery "not suitable to appear" on the site.

Danish gallery Beck-Fischer reports that Facebook’s advertising panel rejects an identical ad roughly half of the time the proprietor submits a bid.

The rejections call the imagery “not suitable to appear” on the site. The gallery’s proprietor, Kaare Beck-Fisher, explains that he only changes the targeting criteria on the ad before resubmitting it; and he only targets Denmark, which has a much more liberal stance on freedom of expression than the U.S. does.

Like he said in an email, “At this point it is always exciting whether or not the very same image, that has not been changed, will be approved (again) or not… it seems very random when they will respectively approve and reject the very same picture in the ad… It just seems ridiculous to have to run the risk of getting the ad banned, just because you want to change the targetting (because the ad is resubmitted for approval, and then becomes the subject of Facebooks random screening process).

The image in question shows a photo reproduction of a painting showing two people underwater, and a woman’s flat chest is barely discernible in the rendition (I had to increase the magnication in my browser window in order to see the supposedly questionable content). Now this same image remains on Beck-Fisher’s page, and Facebook has never censored the picture, nor has anyone affiliated with the website commented on the content.

Facebook hasn’t censored this same image that still appears on Beck-Fisher’s page, nor has anyone affiliated with the website commented on the content, yet every time the he changes the targeting criteria for the ad he faces about a 50 percent chance of rejection.

The mostly automated, self-serve advertising panel on Facebook does have one human element, and that’s probably where Beck-Fisher’s ad gets the 50-50 treatment. I’d wager that if the people vetting his ad operated out of Denmark, he’d see a 100 percent approval rate. U.S. law mostly leaves decisions on the difference between art and obscenity to individual states, and ultimately the issue gets decided on a case by case basis.

Readers, what do you think happens behind the scenes that results in Beck-Fisher’s ad having a 50 percent rejection rate?