Facebook Rejects Ad for Dennis Prager Movie Screening Over Refusal to Identify as Partisan

Dennis Prager Politicon 2017 - Getty - H 2019
Michael Schwartz/Getty Images

A charter school wants to hold a screening of 'No Safe Spaces,' by Adam Carolla and Prager, but doesn't want to identify it as a partisan meeting. Facebook said, "This ad is allowed to run on Facebook but, before it can run, we ask that they comply with our policy."

In its effort to be more transparent about the origin of statements that can impact an election, Facebook has been insisting that organizations disclose political affiliations before buying ads related to “issues of national importance.” The rule is controversial, given it has resulted in refusals to sell ads promoting apolitical ventures, such as a fundraiser for veterans, or even one for Bush’s Baked Beans that was mistakenly deemed overtly partisan.

Now, Facebook’s policy is said to be preventing a California charter school from hosting a documentary movie about free speech unless the school and its CEO, Matt Beaudreau, “identify” themselves as partisan politicos, which they refuse to do.

“They asked me a bunch of personal questions, then said I’d need to identify as a political entity, even though the ad doesn’t mention a party or a politician and takes no political stance whatsoever,” said Beaudreau, whose school is hosting a screening of No Safe Spaces, a movie starring Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager that pokes fun at political correctness at American universities.

While Prager and Carolla both lean right and their movie mainly criticizes liberal college students who seek to shut down opinions that differ from their own, the school, Acton Placer Academy, said it is simply interested in the free-speech angle. The event, in fact, was organized by high-school seniors who chose to do so in order to fulfill an “entrepreneurial” requirement.

“Facebook said if we don’t disclose a political affiliation the ads won’t run. But we’re a nonpartisan school. We’re not a political entity. We’re not going to do that. We have as many parents who are Democrats as we have who are Republicans. The whole purpose of the event is to show that people can put politics aside and have civil debate,” Beaudreau said.

Beaudreau said the June 22 screening includes an introduction from Dave Rubin, a sometimes controversial radio and YouTube personality formerly of left-leaning The Young Turks (generally considered a conservative, he describes himself as a “classical liberal”). No Safe Spaces opens in limited release in September, but Beaudreau said he was made aware of the movie via a crowdfunding campaign in which he donated a small amount.

Carolla had no comment on the Facebook decision, but Prager, whose Prager University is suing Google over what it calls “censorship” of dozens of five-minute educational videos posted on YouTube, called it another example of a large technology company at odds with the First Amendment.

“Unlike liberals, who always valued and fought to protect free speech, leftists have never valued free speech,” Prager told THR. “And the left controls the avenues of information on the Internet. That’s what this is about.”

Facebook's new rules dictate that additional hoops be jumped through for "any advertiser running election-related or issue ads" or if the ad advocates for a specific party, PAC or election outcome. If that is the case, and Beaudreau said it is not, ads can have blackout periods, disclaimers and other restrictions placed on them.

“We all know what happens on campus doesn’t stay on campus,” said the video ad that would've run on Facebook. “Help us prove we can work through our disagreements to create a better country.”

Beaudreau said he was attempting to spend $5,000 to advertise the screening, money he figured the school could easily make back via sales of tickets at $15 to $35 apiece. The event will go on as planned at a 1,400-seat theater at William Jessup University, he said. “We’re advertising elsewhere.”

In a statement to THR, Facebook said: “This ad is allowed to run on Facebook but, before it can run, we ask that they comply with our policy related to issues of national importance by authorizing and then including a ‘paid for’ by disclaimer on the ad. We are committed to transparency and have many different types of pages, including films, that go through these additional steps to run ads related to issues of national importance.”