Republicans in Congress have certainly made a lot of hay out of Facebook's handling of the Diamond and Silk situation and I got curious after I tweeted out asking if anyone had seen the actual correspondence between them and Facebook. Few had. Now that I have, I think Facebook made some mistakes, but that it was not intentional, not malicious, and not nearly as bad as it seemed.
For starters, did you realize this all started in September of 2017 and applied across Facebook, not just to Diamond and Silk? That's when Facebook released its new guidelines on monetization, which you can read here.
But Diamond and Silk say they never got communication and when they went public, Facebook reached out. Facebook concedes they might not have gotten proper notice so Facebook sent emails to their private addresses they used for their Facebook accounts, but then followed up with their public email contact points. Facebook began reaching out before Diamond and Silk went public.
Here's the email sent on April 9, 2018, at 4:46pm.
From: Neil Potts Date: Monday, April 9, 2018 at 4:46 PM To: Subject: Facebook: Diamond and Silk Page
Dear Ms. Hardaway and Ms. Richardson,
First off, we want to apologize for having mishandled communications with you over the last six months. I can only imagine how frustrating this process has been for you. Moreover, the note you received last week was inaccurate and not reflective of the way we communicate with our community and the people who run Pages on our platform.
I wanted to explain what happened to your Page and identify specific steps to prevent a recurrence of these issues moving forward.
In September 2017, we introduced Monetization Eligibility Standards, providing clearer guidance around the types of publishers and creators that are eligible to earn money on Facebook, along with guidelines on the kind of content that can be monetized. This update applied to those using Instant Articles, Branded Content, and Ad Breaks.
We did not properly communicate these policies to you. As a result, you could not have known that the video content on your Page was not in line with our eligibility standards and did not qualify for monetization features.
We are eliminating the restrictions associated with your Page so that you can apply to monetize content. This will include the ability to apply to utilize products such as Branded Content and Instant Articles. As is the case for all advertisers seeking to run ads on our platform, each time you want to monetize your content, the content must be reviewed against our eligibility standards. We are here to be a resource to you in the future should you have any questions on monetization or content-related issues.
Separately, we understand you have questions about the audience reach for content posted on your Page. There are thousands of signals that get factored into how content is ranked in News Feed, and there are two issues, in particular, that are likely affecting your Page's distribution:
- We've made recent changes to News Feed that affect the reach of public Pages. We updated News Feed to help people meaningfully connect with friends and family. As News Feed shifts to prioritize posts from friends, public Pages of all types are more likely to experience declines.
- We have had a policy in place since 2016 to reduce stories from sources that consistently post clickbait headlines. Your Page has higher-than-normal clickbait scores, which is another reason you are seeing reduced distribution. We've posted publishing best practices to which Page owners can refer to avoid issues like this.
Neither of these issues affect the personal News Feed Preferences that your fans may select. We know you have beloved fans who follow your Page and look forward to seeing your posts when they visit Facebook. They can mark the Diamond And Silk Page as “See First” to make sure your content appears towards the top of their News Feed every time you post something new.
We sincerely apologize again for the mishandled communications and are available and eager to connect by phone to review outstanding questions you may have.
Thank you, Neil Potts Product Policy, Facebook
That email was then forwarded to the public accounts via this email at 9:45pm on April 9th:
Date: Monday, April 9, 2018 at 9:45 PM To: Subject: Facebook: Diamond and Silk Page
Ms. Hardaway and Ms. Richardson,
I previously sent the following email to the accounts you had on file, and I am now resending it to your Diamond and Silk email account as well. I look forward to catching up at your earliest convenience.
Facebook comms folks tell me that they then tried to reach Diamond and Silk by phone twice on April 10th to no avail.
That night, Diamond and Silk went on television to claim they had never heard from Facebook.
During that whole time their site was up and getting comments. There was no apparent suppression and no targeting of their site.
Facebook does tell me that "In September 2017, we updated policies around how Pages like Diamond and Silk could monetize their content - we did not properly communicate these policies to them. As a result, they could not have known that they may face new guidelines around what content they could monetize."
When Facebook realized it screwed up, it did its best to connect Diamond and Silk with the right team, assure them they were not targeted, and make the situation right.
I think two things are important here. First, Facebook acknowledges it did screw up, but that when contacted it did reach out and made attempts via email, Facebook messenger, and phone.
I come away from this all thinking that Diamond and Silk were intentionally targeted is wrong. There was a problem, but it got fixed and had nothing to do with their politics. In fact, according to Crowdtangle data, Diamond and Silk's Facebook page has seen a significant increase in interaction this week - they have not been censored as some are claiming.
Oh, the Facebook folks I talked to said they'd appreciate it if Diamond and Silk would return their emails or phone calls so they can get the situation resolved. Operators are standing by.