Facebook Blocks Ad For Song Critical of Biden's Afghanistan Withdrawal

Five For Fighting's new single slams the administration for abandoning Americans

John Ondrasik of the group Five For Fighting. (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)
September 15, 2021

Facebook blocked an ad that promoted a song critical of President Joe Biden's botched Afghanistan withdrawal, raising questions about how it applies its advertising rules.

The social media giant twice prohibited Five For Fighting's John Ondrasik from purchasing an ad to promote his new single "Blood On My Hands." Facebook claimed the song, which slams the Biden administration for abandoning hundreds of Americans and thousands of Afghan allies, "violated their policy on either politics or social issues." The song singles out Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley.

Facebook's advertising policies state that "Ads must not contain content that exploits crises or controversial political or social issues for commercial purposes." But the company frequently allows political ads on its platform. A cursory review shows Facebook hosted multiple ads from Black Lives Matter and leftist organization Demand Justice promoting abortion and calling for checks on police. A Wall Street Journal report found that Facebook maintains a list of almost six million public figures who are exempted from content moderation regulations.

Facebook's content moderation has received increased scrutiny from Congress as part of a broader concern over how big tech companies shape discourse on their platforms. GOP lawmakers have called for regulations that would ban discrimination based on the viewpoint of the user. Some lawmakers, and Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas, have suggested that massive social media companies should be classified as "common carriers," meaning they would not be allowed to bar legal speech based on their own moderation policies.

Tech companies have come under fire for enforcing rules aggressively against conservatives. After a pressure campaign from pro-choice activists, Google on Tuesday removed all ads from pro-life group Live Action. Many of the banned ads promoted a pill that reverses the effects of an abortion pill if taken quickly enough. Google hosts thousands of ads for the abortion pill.

Ondrasik said his song, written the day 13 Americans and 60 Afghans were killed by an ISIS suicide bomber, fits in the "great tradition of artists speaking their minds and calling out their leaders for answers." In a Wednesday Facebook post, Ondrasik said, "I'm glad Joan Baez, Woody Guthrie, Dylan, Creedence (fave), and CSYN [sic] didn't live in the age of FB overlords."

"My hope is that this song helps demand accountability, so the American promise is not forsaken," the singer said.