Flat Earthers Stymie Facebook Ads for NASA Book Project | News & Opinion


Facebook has been canceling ads for a photo book about NASA on complaints from flat earthers and moon landing deniers, according to the photographer behind the project.

Benedict Redgrove has spent nine years working on the book, which will include over 200 images of historic NASA artifacts, such as space suits and rocket engines. His book is now seeking funding on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter.

The only problem? His attempts to advertise the project on Facebook have been getting repeatedly flagged as “misleading.” And Redgrove thinks he knows why. A group of users who believe the Earth is flat and that the moon landing was faked have been posting comments deriding his upcoming photo book.

“I would get messages saying that NASA is fake. That NASA lied. That the moon landing was a hoax,” Redgrove told PCMag. “It kind of went on and on.”

He suspects the same users reported his US-focused ads as scams, which triggered Facebook’s algorithms to take them down. At least 20 of his ads have been pulled since he began advertising on the social network late last month. The complaints even sparked Facebook’s algorithms to shut down two ad accounts his associates were using to promote his book.

However, Facebook told PCMag the company actually never rejected Redgrove’s ads. Instead, Facebook can hide an advertisement from view if it’s been flagged for violating policies. The company will then re-review the ad. Nevertheless, Facebook did say it had mistakenly disabled an ad account promoting Redgrove’s Kickstarter campaign.

“No ads were ever rejected from this Page. Our systems are not perfect and we made a mistake by accidentally disabling the account. This error still had nothing to do with the content of the ad campaign nor any ad reports,” the company said in a statement.

The issues Redgrove experienced occurs as social media platforms have faced accusations over incubating other conspiracy theories concerning vaccinations and the Sept. 11 terrorist attack while trying to maintain free speech

Redgrove said he finds the whole situation odd and unsettling. Before he posted the ads, Facebook’s systems had approved them, only to later reverse the decision. “It’s been a massive pain in the ass,” he said. “We couldn’t advertise for a while.”

Last Friday, Redgrove decided to publicize the problems, fearing that his book project would fail to meet the “all-or-nothing” $189,277 funding goal, and result in no funds at all. “Unfortunately Facebook seems to side with them (the flat earthers) rather than us in this case and so I’m having problems getting the Kickstarter messages out. If it wasn’t so stressful it would be funny,” he wrote on his Kickstarter page.

Redgrove said he doesn’t mind people believing in that the Earth is flat or that the moon landing was allegedly faked. But he does take issue with conspiracy theorists trying to sabotage his fact-based project. “They (Facebook) are protecting the wrong people, for the wrong reasons,” he said.

As for the book itself, on Wednesday, Redgrove met his funding goal. And according to Facebook’s ad library, the advertisements for the project are now active.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with comment from Facebook.



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