Facebook Says It Erred in Removing Conservative Group’s Anti-Stimulus Petition

By Edwin Mora and Pete Winn | February 12, 2009 | 1:17 PM EST

(AP photo)

(CNSNews.com) - Facebook has done an about face. The Internet social networking site told CNSNews.com that it made a mistake when it took down an ad for “NoStimulus.com” -- a Web site sponsored by a conservative nonprofit group that is running a petition campaign in opposition to the stimulus bill under consideration in Congress.

"As part of our efforts to remove other ads with misleading offers related to the stimulus package, we erroneously removed the ad in question,” Facebook corporate spokesman Matt Hicks told CNSNews.com in an e-mail. “We have since restored that ad. We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused."

The petition says: “Congress should not enact an expensive spending bill under the pretense of stimulus or recovery.  We cannot spend our way to prosperity, and such an expansion of the federal government will put a crushing burden on taxpayers in the long-term.”

CNSNews.com reported earlier that Americans for Prosperity, which sponsored “NoStimulus.com” and its petition to stop the stimulus bill, said it has been told by Facebook that the ad violated Facebook’s rules governing advertising.

Facebook told CNSNews.com yesterday, however, that the ad had been removed because of “user complaints.”

“At Facebook, we strive to create a trusted environment for our users and advertisers,” Facebook spokeswoman Erin Zietler said in an e-mail on Wednesday, Feb. 11. “We encourage users to report any advertisements they find offensive or misleading, and we offer the ability for them to provide immediate feedback on our ads. We have a team dedicated to investigating ads and user complaints.

“In this case, users informed us about misleading offers in many ads with promotions related to the U.S. economic stimulus package,” the spokeswoman said. “We are in the process of removing ads with these types of misleading offers as they are brought to our attention.”

Phil Kerpen, national policy director for Americans for Prosperity said he believed Facebook changed course because of CNSNews.com’s report on the removal of the ad.

“We’re really pleased to see the powerful and solid journalism, and that your story got them to stop doing something that really was indefensible that they thought they could get a way with just because nobody was paying attention,” Kerpen said.

“They were wrong, we didn’t violate their rules, they were capricious in trying to enforce their rules in the first place, and they did the right thing,” Kerpen added. “I think it’s a great victory.”

Ironically, Kerpen said his group has decided not to put the ad back up on Facebook.

“We’ve only got a day or two left before they vote on the stimulus bill, and any of the ad dollars we have left at this point we’d rather put toward Drudge or Fox, where we’re getting better ‘clicks’ than we were with the Facebook ad,” Kerpen said.

“But we’re glad, as a matter of political speech that we can make that decision and we’re glad that we have the right to do that without someone taking them down.”

Kerpen said his group has no intention of holding a grudge, and they may purchase ads on Facebook in the future.

“If we can get a good result there and drive people--they offer great targeting and that’s valuable for the things that we do--we’d go back,” Kerpen said.