Over the weekend, Facebook ignored its own declared — and much criticized — policy of not trying to police political discourse or ads, by banning a British election ad.
But it was for a business reason that had nothing to do with freedom of speech: intellectual property rights.
The BBC complained that the 15-second ad in question — a video from the Conservative Party that used news clips from the BBC — could damage perceptions of its impartiality because it distorted its actual political coverage.
The ad showed clips of BBC journalists “saying things like ‘pointless delay to Brexit’ alongside a montage of protest footage and debates in parliament, all set to dramatic music,” reports CNN Business. “But the clips were from reporters quoting politicians' own statements, including Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is campaigning in the December 12 election under the slogan ‘get Brexit done.’”
After the ad had been viewed about 430,000 times (including an unknown number of multiple views), for a cost of about $12,930 U.S., starting last Thursday, it was replaced on Sunday with a message in Facebook’s ad library stating that it was taken down “because it goes against Facebook’s intellectual property policies.”
The BBC complained to Facebook after the Conservative Party declined the broadcaster’s requests to take down the ad.
Facebook told CNN that the Conservatives’ use of footage without permission constituted "a valid intellectual property claim from the rights holder,” the BBC.
Facebook — whose ad policies state that ads must not contain content that infringes on of violates the rights of any third party, including copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity or other personal or proprietary rights — stuck to that legal premise, rather than alluding in any way to the BBC's charge that the ad’s content was misleading.
U.K. law requires that broadcasters — but not newspapers — remain impartial in their political coverage, particularly near elections, CNN notes.