A trade union has criticised Facebook for refusing to allow it to promote a video on the platform. The University and College Union (UCU) alleges that Facebook deemed the video “too political” for it to promote.
The UCU attempted to promote a video calling on its members to vote for strike action in further education colleges. The strike ballot is in response to a pay dispute between college workers and their employers. The UCU claims that “workloads have never been higher” and that college teaching staff currently receive £7,000 less per year than school teachers.
According to TES, after attempting to promote the video, the UCU received a message from Facebook which said:
The text and/or imagery you’re using is related to politics or an issue of national importance, based on the definition we’re using for enforcement. However, your page is not authorised to run these types of ads.
The UCU argues this ruling from the social media company restricts trade unions from mobilising their members. Specifically, the union suggested that it restricts its ability to promote lawful strike ballots:
Watch the advert Facebook says is ‘too political’ to promote. We’ve appealed and are taking it up with the TUC. We think trade unions should be able to publicise a lawful ballot. Please share and support our members fighting for pay in colleges. https://t.co/Ngz59USdwv
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— UCU (@ucu) December 6, 2018
A UCU spokesperson also told TES:
It is quite ridiculous that we can’t promote a video for a legal ballot on Facebook. We have spent the past few days trying to point this out to Facebook, but with no joy. Hopefully, they will now see sense and we can play our fair pay video. We have contacted the TUC, as this is a problem other unions will encounter but shouldn’t have to.
This isn’t the first time people have accused Facebook of censorship. Nor is it the first time people have accused the company of restricting the ability of progressive organisations to reach the public through its platform.
Earlier in 2018, a number of UK-based progressive media outlets said that changes to Facebook’s algorithm appeared to have significantly reduced the number of people their content was reaching. Similar allegations have been made in other countries. These changes have generally reduced the reach of news outlets across the board, but some claim smaller organisations are hit harder.
Facebook made changes to its advertising rules in October. These changes force pages paying to advertise content deemed “political” to register with the website. Facebook made these changes after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
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