Facebook canceled ads purchased for our book “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision” this week because it was too “shocking.”
The book features art by Doug Blanchard showing Jesus as a gay man in a modern city, including the crucifixion and resurrection. We contacted Lambda Legal and the National Coalition Against Censorship for advice on how to handle the Facebook censorship.
People can show support by "liking" the Passion of Christ page on Facebook on Facebook and buying the Passion of Christ book at Amazon.com or other bookstores.
Doug and I assumed that Facebook was upset about the gay aspect, but today Facebook sent a surprising explanation: They rejected the ad because it shows “Dead or dismembered bodies -Ghosts, zombies, ghouls and vampires.”
Are they seriously upset at the shocking nature of the image of a crucified Jesus?! They see the risen Christ as a zombie?! One point of the book was to reawaken people to the reality that violence is unacceptable and shocking. But this is unfair.
Facebook features plenty of other images of Jesus on the cross, including ones that are more gruesome than anything in the book. And Facebook has many images of ghosts and zombies for Halloween, “The Walking Dead” TV show, etc. We still suspect that our book was singled out due to its gay content.
If Facebook wants to stop all image of the crucifix, we might even have fundamentalist Christians on our side with this!
We also wonder whether these explanations were automatically issued by a computer -- based on complaints from right-wing Christians. It feels like what one supporter called the “Robotic Inquisition” -- automated messages generated by algorithms without any human staff member taking a look at the images.
The following is a detailed chronology of the whole crazy chain of events.
Fri., Oct. 17: Doug Blanchard bought a series of ads to promote the Facebook page about our new book, “The Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision.” They were supposed to run for a week.
Mon, Oct. 20: Facebook canceled the ads. They posted a message saying, "Your page wasn't promoted because your ad violated an ad guideline" with a link that said, "Learn More." Doug clicked on the link and didn't learn much. It said:
"Your ad wasn't approved because the image or video thumbnail may shock or evoke a negative response from viewers. However sometimes we make mistakes. If the image you used was not intended to shock but was still disapproved, get in touch."
Doug began sending messages to Facebook while I contacted Lambda Legal and the National Coalition Against Censorship.
Wed., Oct. 22: Facebook finally responded with this message:
Thanks for writing in. I'm here to help.
Your ad was rejected because the image violates the Ad Guidelines. Ads may not use images that are shocking.
Prohibited images include: -Accidents -Car crashes -Dead or dismembered bodies -Ghosts, zombies, ghouls and vampires
To resubmit your ad, edit the image from your ads manager.
Review our policies on ad images here: https://www.facebook.com/help/250509391644213/?ref=cr
Michelle Facebook Ads Team Facebook
Doug sent this reply today:
Here is a link to the website for the book we are trying to promote and to all of the images in the book:
The book is indeed controversial, but its intentions are not blasphemous, there is no sexual content, and the violence is unavoidable in any retelling of Christ's Passion. Facebook publishes Crucifixes all the time, which would always violate the criteria which you lay out in you reply. If promoting a book of art means that we are limited to strictly happy uncontroversial subject matter, then only Thomas Kinkade and the work of a select few children's book illustrators would pass muster. Picasso and Michelangelo would both be out of bounds by your own definition.
Facebook publishes the most bloodthirsty homophobic rants all the time, but lately seems to have a lot of problems with anything with gay, and especially gay positive, content. Is this a problem for Mr. Zuckerberg?
I suspect that Facebook is trying to impose a kind of candied anodyne vision upon the chaotic variety and vitality of human communication that uses its social network. Where better to directly enforce that vision than in advertising policies?
The author, the publisher, myself, and a few friends are in conversation with Lambda Legal over this matter.
I notice that the Facebook page for the Mel Gibson movie The Passion of Christ -- a much more violent version of this subject than anything in our book -- has more than 3 million likes. Can you explain this to us, and why our book was singled out? I suspect strongly that it is because of the gay content.
--Doug Blanchard, the artist of the book.
Visit the page that Facebook won't let us pay to advertise -- and show support by clicking "like" and inviting your friends.
Passion of Christ: A Gay Vision
Promote Your Page Too
Here's a link to one of many lively discussions about the Passion ad censorship on Facebook today. Feel free to join in:
“The Brave New World of Social Media Censorship” (Harvard Law Review)
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Jesus in Love Blog on LGBT spirituality and the arts