An Open Letter to Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, Inc.: In Defense of Our First Amendment Rights

Dear Mr. Zuckerberg

Last Thursday, I awoke to find that our health and wellness website, OrganicAuthority.com, was blocked from Facebook without warning or notice about whatever rule it is we violated. It was almost as if our website never existed. Not a single trace of the site could be found. Our Facebook page was whittled down to images we’d posted without links to our site, and the content of other sites we’d shared.

Like any tech-savvy company. We checked from other browsers. Our smart phones. We waited in hopes that it was just an infamous site “glitch.” But the waiting was in vain as the hours ticked by and still no change. We had vanished from Facebook.

As a web-only magazine, Facebook is our lifeblood — a direct contact to many of our readers. We’ve been on the platform for well over six years now and we strive to follow your policies, play fair, and be a good corporate Facebook citizen. We spend money every single month on ads to extend our reach and drive engagement in what we think, helps to build a better community. We invest in creating high-quality content month after month to support and nurture our ever-expanding Facebook community.

Like many other small businesses, we supported you in your early days, when big brands and media laughed at you. While we’re by no means the biggest site on the platform, we take pride in knowing that even our tiny drop in the bucket helped build your brand. We send our audience to your platform daily to not only help build Facebook, but to also make the world a more connected and inspired place. When our content goes viral on Facebook, we know we’re making a difference in countless lives.

We’ve adapted to the ever-changing Facebook policies and algorithms that you claim improve the quality of the content and the overall Facebook experience for both brands and the communities they target. But yet, you don’t seem to return the love to those who helped build your platform. You respond by reducing organic reach year after year. You routinely suppress trending news stories you don’t support, and then, you shut the sites down, too. Without warning.

You shut down Maria Kang, obsessed fitness mom-of-three, for expressing her voice on the current state of obesity in America, deemed it hate speech, and blocked her access to Facebook. And now you’ve done it to us (and who knows how many more).

In fact, you’re becoming rather infamous for your censorship. You don’t seem to like photos of plus-sized women on Facebook (or Instagram), you’ve routinely taken them down, too. You have a long history of censoring breastfeeding mothers. And what about sex education? You don’t seem to support that either. You’ve even censored Matt Orfalea’s video of PBS censoring Green Candidate Dr. Jill Stein’s criticism of Hillary Clinton, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and Obamacare. The list goes on of who and what you’ve censored, including journalists, artists, LGBTQ groups, and more.

Yes, Facebook for some reason you’ve blocked our small health and wellness website, OrganicAuthority.com, from posting delicious recipes made from scratch, DIY home and garden, content, nutrition, wellness and fitness tips, and important food and environmental news that help to create a safer food system and environment for everyone. Even you, Mr. Zuckerberg.

And not only are we very sad, our fans our sad. In fact, it was our fans that alerted us to the problem. Here’s what some of them had to say:

Earlier this year, I was thrilled when you assigned us a Facebook account manager for our ads. It helped us boost our reach and best utilize your platform. But then, you took him away, too.

When we discovered our site was banned, our former account manager kindly referred me to this page: http://www.facebook.com/business/resources, where we used to be able to chat with live help, but then you took that service away, too. Now, in order to get help, it is nearly impossible! I have to dig through page after page to find out where I can contact someone — anyone! — at Facebook to get help. I’ve submitted a several requests including an appeal via this page and other avenues, but I haven’t heard a peep since our site was banned sometime Wednesday evening or early Thursday morning. I even posted a question to your Facebook business page. Still no response.

It’s sad that a company as big as Facebook — and so critical to moving us into the technological age — doesn’t value it’s paying customers. We thought we were in this together, Facebook.

How can you be an Internet company focused on communication and community-building without a clear communication system for your paying customers? May I suggest you take a page out of Zappos book on how to deliver a world class customer experience?

I can only assume that if we were BuzzFeed or another large brand, this would not have happened without warning or explanation; there would be some sort of recourse. Not giving a paying customer, no matter how small, the courtesy of an explanation, or a chance to correct any error we may have made, is downright mean, and dare I say UnAmerican. These tactics are arrogant. They stink like behavior of a bully. The behavior assumes that you, Facebook, are 100 percent correct in your decision to ban our site, in what was most likely a technical error. I’ve experienced this before, having ads rejected only to be told by a Facebook customer service rep that the system made a mistake, “that shouldn’t happen.”

As two digital companies living in the technology age we all need one another to thrive and survive. In fact, the digital landscape thrives on collaboration and connections. You couldn’t survive without your billions of users or the brands that spend billions of dollars a month to advertise. Can’t we at least have a more humane system of flagging content or sites before just hitting the delete button?

Banning us could have a chilling effect; it certainly affects our bottom line. We are a small, self-funded, boot-strapped independent publisher that isn’t backed by big VC dollars like many other sites in today’s market. We bring a unique, independent voice that’s helping change our food system and empowering your users to take control of their health and feel good about doing it.

We invest in Facebook to help drive traffic to our website, drive revenue and create jobs. This type of loss in traffic could very well force us to have to let people go. Inaction on your part and an absent path to recourse will affect more than our brand, it will affect people’s lives.

But banning us not only hurts our brand, it’s hurting your brand, too. Users are losing trust in Facebook, calling this blatant censorship and a violation of our First Amendment rights.

We posted a note to our fan page letting our followers know what’s happened and here’s what some of them have to say:

To see all of the comments go to our Facebook page and click on the post published Friday August 26th at 11:25 am PST, (an aptly sad emoji with a tear). There are even more comments on our second post from Sunday August 28th at 3:33pm (also the sad emoji, because this is sad!).

Facebook, this sucks. We’re hopeful that your system once again made an error and this isn’t a draconian sleight to small publishers and businesses. We admit it, we need you. And we sure hope you realize you need us, too.

In Good Health,

Laura Klein

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