Facebook has banned The Epoch Times from any future advertising on its platform, NBC reports after accusing the conservative news outlet of breaking transparency rules surrounding Trump-linked political ads.
The news site's main Facebook page was already blocked from advertising last month following a report by journalist Judd Legum suggesting that it had funnelled $1.5 million into Trump-friendly ads through a subsidiary page called “Coverage of the Trump Presidency by The Epoch Times,” and not through the main one.
The Epoch Times, however, maintains that Facebook did not explain the reasons behind the ban despite requests for clarification. The publication believes the decision had nothing to do with the content of the ads, all of which were reviewed and approved by Facebook.
Since then, it has been running advertisements on several new Facebook pages.
A recent NBC report claimed that the new pages that were not clearly associated with The Epoch Times were disseminating pro-Trump conspiracy theories through “dark-money ads” and were done to “obfuscate” the connection to the site. The second ban followed soon after.
“Over the past year we removed accounts associated with The Epoch Times for violating our ad policies, including trying to get around our review systems,” a Facebook spokesperson was quoted as saying by NBC. “We acted on additional accounts today and they are no longer able to advertise with us.”
But the news outlet insists that all ads were “overtly Epoch Times advertisements” encouraging users to subscribe to the print newspaper, according to a statement by its publisher, Stephen Gregory.
“NBC’s representation of our print-subscription advertisements is blatantly incorrect,” he wrote. “None of our advertising was done to ‘obfuscate’ the connection to The Epoch Times; all the advertising was clearly for Epoch Times print subscriptions.”
Each political ad on Facebook should be accompanied with a disclaimer indicating the sponsor that paid for it, and the NBC report suggests that the “paid for by” section of each ad featured anonymous sponsors.
The Epoch Times has denied accusations of insufficient transparency, stating that all ads were labelled properly.
Gregory said last month that the site's subscription advertisements “have no political agenda” and that “the only reason some of them are run as ‘political advertising’ is that online platforms require them to be categorised as such.”
The previous version of this article contained inaccurate information suggesting that The Epoch Times had run accounts affiliated with a wider organisation and donors, and that its ads were labelled inappropriately. The article was corrected and updated with key points from Stephen Gregory's statement, while the headline "Facebook Bans Ads from Conservative Outlet The Epoch Times for Political Ads Policy Violation" was changed to "The Epoch Times Hits Back at Media Claims of Running Political Ads Amid Facebook Ban" to better explain the site's position.