Some months ago, I logged in to my Facebook profile to throw a few targeted ads up. I’d done Facebook advertising before and found it to be moderately successful — enough that I aimed to do a campaign every couple of months.

Imagine my surprise when I logged in one morning to find this:

For some unknown and clearly arbitrary reason, the gods at Facebook banned my account for running “abusive” ads. The essence of the message above is: “You tried to post an abusive ad. We’ve banned you. There’s nothing you can do about it. Now go away.”

This is bizarre to me. The only campaigns I’ve run are simple and certainly not abusive. Naturally, the Advertising Guidelines they’ve posted don’t help an iota. Under Facebook’s rules, one can’t post an ad that contain “political agendas,” that “advocates against any organization,” or is “grammatically [in]correct and [doesn’t] contain proper sentence structure.”

Good thing the web as a whole doesn’t have that last condition.

The ad I ran that appeared to trigger this ban was this:


I’ve read Facebook’s guidelines several times. The only thing I can think of that bugged Facebook was the use of the CBC logo. However, considering CBC has officially endorsed my unofficial CBC fan page as its own, it’s rather a moot point. Or perhaps it’s because I didn’t put a period after “corp” — even though most Canadians know the CBC’s nickname: “The Mother Corp.” But I can’t believe this ad is “abusive,” as Facebook claims.

More Arbitrary Facebook Ad Guidelines

Among the offenses that will get you banned permanently from placing ads on Facebook are:

  • Using a ‘&’ instead of the word ‘and’
  • Ending a sentence with an ellipse (‘…’)
  • Running an ad promoting a political point of view

The Solution

Facebook should take a lesson from Google, which at least tells you why your ad wasn’t approved and gives you an opportunity to fix it. If Facebook were to just email and say “You should use a ‘.’ after ‘corp’,” I’d be happy to fix it. I get my ads run; Facebook gets money. Problem solved.

Instead, people create a second profile with a fake name and run ads under that name instead, pointing to the same destination page as the original banned ad. In fact, considering these banning decisions are made by actual human beings, there’s a good chance that one could post the exact same ad under a different name and have it sail right through the approval process. One person’s “abusive” is another person’s “mild irritant.” We’ve already seen this in the approval process of Apple’s App Store.

Unfortunately for Facebook, I’ve given up trying to get this ban reversed. Instead, I’ve put that money into Google ads and other online promotional means.