Facebook admits it "made an error" when it blocked Greece's 4th of July events

July 04, 2018 05:18 PM

Facebook now says it made a mistake over an announcement of Fourth of July events in Greece. And a report from News10NBC helped the company fess up.

When the Town of Greece tried to boost the news of its Independence Day celebrations, Facebook blocked them.

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The Town of Greece was trying to tell as many people as possible about the parades, fun runs and fireworks it was putting on.

However, when the town paid $30 to boost the post about the Fourth of July events, Facebook sent an auto-reply that said the post "qualifies as political."

"I think they implemented a new policy without thoroughly testing it and we became one of the guinea pigs I guess," Greece Supervisor Bill Reilich said after a town parade Wednesday.  
Last week, Reilich called News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean about the problem.

In the town conference room, he showed News10NBC the three Facebook Fourth of July posts he tried to boost. When he tried it on his official supervisor page, where he's registered as a government official, each one got blocked. 

"The red line on each of these pages indicate that they've denied the boost. They won't allow it," he told News10NBC then. 

So starting that day News10NBC contacted Facebook for an explanation. And on Wednesday, one week later and just as News10NBC was about to interview the supervisor again, we got a call from Facebook headquarters in Palo Alto, California. 

In a statement 90 minutes later, Facebook said "Our new political and issue ad transparency policies are designed to make sure people know who is behind the ads they see on Facebook. Enforcement will never be perfect but we will continue to improve and have processes in place -like the ability to appeal for people and advertisers and welcome that feedback.  In this case, we made an error, we're sorry and we intend to learn from this incident."

We asked Facebook why the original posts were considered political. The company said it could not answer that. 

News10NBC Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "I talked to Facebook and they said it was a mistake."

Bill Reilich, Greece Town Supervisor: "I'll accept that. The only thing, and I understand, they must get countless numbers of communications on a daily basis. A lot of this could have been avoided, especially with a new program, had they had some human intervention. I'm sure we could have avoided this whole situation."

Greece boosted its Fourth of July posts Tuesday and they were accepted.

To be clear, the original posts were not blocked so friends of the Greece Town Facebook page could see everything. 

It was the boosts that were blocked. Boosting helps reach a wider audience. Two days after our first story, Irondequoit Town Supervisor Dave Seeley boosted a post about his town's Fourth of July events. 

"From the town Facebook page, just a very small boost. It wasn't blocked," Seeley told News10NBC today. "I can't speak for the Town of Greece as to why there's was blocked.


Berkeley Brean

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