Undocumented Immigrants Fear Harm From New Facebook Rules


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New Facebook policies currently being implemented for political ads have resulted in most of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. being banned from buying political and issue-based ads—including ones for topics like immigration.

“Anyone who wants to buy a political or issue ad in the United States must have a Social Security number along with a U.S. passport or valid driver’s license,” Vice News, which first reported on the policy change, wrote on Tuesday.

The ban seems to be an unintended consequence of a wider effort by Facebook to crack down on foreign interference in U.S. elections.

“The advertiser authorization process is designed to help ensure people know who’s behind the political ads they see on Facebook,” a Facebook spokesperson told Splinter on Wednesday. “We fully understand that the process, as currently designed, presents challenges for some groups and we’re exploring solutions now to address those concerns.”

Facebook did confirm that a small percentage of the roughly 700,000 DACA recipients who have Social Security numbers and government-issued identifications will still be able to purchase issue ads.

Facebook is not alone in this kind of change. Earlier this month, Google announced that it was now requiring advertisers who buy U.S. election ads to “confirm they are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, as required by law.”

But Facebook went a step further by limiting who can buy ads for “national issues of public importance,” like abortion, education, and immigration.

“This is going to affect the national conversation,” Justino Mora, a DACA recipient who co-founded Undocumedia, an immigrant-rights advocacy group with more than 273,000 followers on Facebook, told Splinter.

Social media has been critical for today’s immigrant rights movement. The “DREAMer” narrative is so prevalent today because young undocumented people “came out of the shadows” and shared their stories on social media. The first known act of civil disobedience by young undocumented people was livestreamed and shared widely. But as Facebook and other social media platforms update their algorithms, sharing content organically has become increasingly difficult.

The Undocumedia Facebook page regularly informs followers of important events and deadlines. For example, when the Trump Administration rescinded DACA, the Undocumedia informed followers of deadlines and where they could access emergency grants to help pay for application fees.

“I have purchased issue ads myself and I have seen the results of informing, educating, and mobilizing [our community] to take action,” Mora told Splinter. He said Facebook’s algorithms make it tougher for advocates like him to widely share urgent updates without paying the company to run issue-based ads. “Whenever we want to reach people in critical points we can’t do it organically. In urgent times these ads are an important part of getting critical information to our followers,” he said.

Mora said Facebook should work with immigrant rights activists to make sure undocumented people in the U.S. can buy ads for issues relevant to their community.

We asked Facebook if any undocumented people were currently involved in the ad policy discussions. They said they’d get back to us.

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