Facebook reversed its decision to censor ads for an upcoming documentary championing e-cigarettes Friday, after the film’s director wrote a letter of protest.
Facebook initially rejected advertisements for the film “A Billion Lives” on the grounds it violated guidelines prohibiting ads related to e-cigarettes. The title is based on the World Health Organization’s estimate a billion people will die from smoking over the course of this century.
“Your ad was rejected because it doesn’t follow the ad guidelines,” Facebook told Director Aaron Biebert when he asked for an explanation. “Ads may not promote tobacco or tobacco-related products, including E-cigarettes.”
“This decision is final and we may not respond to additional inquiries about this ad,” the Facebook team added, as if for good measure. The decision baffled Biebert, because e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, and he sees them as a way to help people quit smoking.
Biebert protested the decision in a letter addressed to Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team that informed them of the film’s content and purpose.
“We are making a film to help people discover what’s going on in the world,” Biebert wrote. “We’re trying to use Facebook to make the world more open, to stay connected, and to give people the power to share what matters most to them…a way to save the lives of their families, friends, and themselves.”
“You call our film a tobacco product, yet we are trying to help people quit,” he added. “You promise to make the world more open, but you are closing it off.”
Biebert notified the film’s fans Friday that Facebook had reversed course and will no longer censor the ads. “A Billion Lives,” billed as a true story of “government failure, big business and the vaping revolution,” is set to hit theaters in mid-2016.
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