Facebook blocks ads promoting Rotterdam mayor’s biography

Ahmed Aboutaleb
Ahmed Aboutaleb mayor of RotterdamRijksvoorlichtingsdienstWikimedia

Facebook decided to block advertisements promoting a biography on Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb. Publisher De Bezige Bij was informed that Facebook does not want to lend itself to "advertisements about social issues, elections or politics", the Volkskrant reports.

The book in question is titled Ahmed Aboutaleb - overal de eerste and was written by Trouw journalist Elisa Hermanides and Het Parool journalist Ruben Koops.

Publisher Francien Schuursma was surprised by the advertisement being blocked. "We often advertise on Facebook, including with political books. This appears to be a tightened rule. We are confronted with this for the first time", she said to the newspaper. "Fortunately there are other ways to advertise this book online. Although I hope that Facebook will realize that a ban on advertisements for these types of books really goes too far."

Facebook could not tell the Volkskrant exactly why the ad was blocked. A spokesperson referred the newspaper to the social media platform's general rules for political campaigns. "If you post a political ad, then you must also follow the process for a political ad", the spokesperson said. This means that Facebook must know which organizations are behind such an ad. "Only in this way can Facebook be transparent about what is happening on our platform in this area."

The question is whether the ad about a biography is a political advertisement. The Rotterdam mayor himself was not involved with writing the book, and the biography does not form part of any election campaign. 

"You can of course discuss what a political advertisement is", the Facebook spokesperson said. She called this biography "a nice case of why there should be a general definition of what is meant by a political advertisement."