General election 2019: Facebook bans Tory ad over BBC footage

Huw Edwards

Facebook has deleted a Conservative election ad that used BBC News footage because it infringed the corporation’s intellectual property (IP) rights.

The BBC said the material had been used out of context in a way that “could damage perceptions of our impartiality”.

On Thursday, the Tories rejected a request from the BBC’s lawyers to remove the 15-second video.

The BBC also complained to Facebook, which has now deleted the ad.

  • BBC complains to Tories over Facebook advert

In a statement, Facebook said: “We have removed this content following a valid intellectual property claim from the rights holder, the BBC.

“Whenever we receive valid IP claims against content on the platform, in advertising or elsewhere, we act in accordance with our policies and take action as required.”

A BBC spokesperson said: “We welcome the decision.”

The Conservative Party said: “All political parties make use of BBC content. We will be asking the BBC if in the interests of fairness they intend to complain about other political parties who use their content.”


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By Digital Elections Reporter Joe Tidy

The unprecedented and unpredictable campaign tactics being used during this election are putting Facebook’s policies under increasing amounts of scrutiny and strain.

The decision to remove the Conservative advert is significant; not because of the action the platform took, but the grounds on which it acted.

The row between the BBC and the Conservative Party was about the ethics of the party’s advert. The BBC believes that the ad misled viewers into thinking that its news reporters were supporting the Conservatives. The Conservatives disagreed.

Facebook were aware of the row on the night the ad began running but didn’t get involved until a copyright claim was lodged days later.

The decision to take it down then was effectively a black and white one – and easy enough for the social media giant to act on without getting into the icky business of judging what counts as disinformation.

It’s another example of the platform taking action on simple technical grounds and helps us to build a clearer picture of the fuzzy policies that the platform and its sister site Instagram adheres to.

Facebook will take action on political adverts but only when it has an excuse to stay out of the politics.

The move also brings into sharp focus the need for regulation of what elements of news coverage are or aren’t allowed during an election campaign.

Clips of BBC presenters – political editor Laura Kuenssberg and News at Ten presenter Huw Edwards – speaking in recent broadcasts about Brexit delays were used in the ad.

The clips were edited into a montage of protest footage and video of debate in the House of Commons, all set to dramatic music.

The advert, which was used to target three separate groups of Facebook users, was seen by at least 350,000 people.

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It began running on Thursday afternoon and, according to the Facebook Ad Library, was mainly aimed at 35-54 year olds and cost the party around £7,000.

The advert, along with two others, was removed so it is no longer visible online and a message reads: “This ad was taken down because it goes against Facebook’s intellectual property policies.”

In Facebook’s policy guidelines it states that “ads must not contain content that infringes upon or violates the rights of any third party, including copyright, trademark, privacy, publicity or other personal or proprietary rights”.

When it rejected the BBC’s initial request to stop running the ads, the Conservative Party said it was “clear the footage was not edited in a manner that misleads or changes the reporting”.