Facebook has taken down some Shell advertisements after they fell foul of its rules over transparency on climate change and environmental politics.
Ads promoting the FTSE 100 energy company’s carbon-friendlier work - such as its Greenlots, its US electric vehicle charging business in the US, and Shell Energy, its power supplier in the UK - were removed after Facebook ruled they covered environmental politics, where it is trying to clamp down on misinformation.
Since 2018 the social network has required ads about environmental politics and other social and political issues, in several countries, to be authorised in advance and to carry a disclaimer showing who paid for them.
The relevant Shell ads, published between 2018 and last month, carried the company’s logo and were labelled as ‘Sponsored’ - but did not carry the specific disclaimer “Paid for by Shell”. There is no suggestion there was anything incorrect with the content of the ads.
But Facebook’s strict policing of its own rules reflects concern within the company over misinformation about climate change spreading on its platforms.
It also poses a challenge for energy companies as they try and use the social media giant to reach consumers. Other energy companies have also had ads relating to renewable energy challenged.
Facebook’s ads are checked both by humans and algorithms. In the UK, its definition of "social issues" includes crime, environmental politics and the economy. In the US, its "social issues" also include education and guns.
Facebook said: “To prevent election interference and other abuses of our platform, ads about politics, elections or social issues like climate change are held to a higher standard.”
A spokesman added: “Climate change is real. The science is unambiguous and the need to act grows more urgent by the day. As a global company that connects more than three billion people across our apps every month, we understand the responsibility Facebook has and we want to make a real difference.”
Shell is trying to reposition itself as an energy business with a growing renewable energy division, rather than just an oil and gas business. It has pledged to cut its carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 and increased its investment into wind and solar power and other renewables.
Facebook’s policy requires individual advert submitters to be authorised to post ads on social issues, rather than just their employer.
A multinational like Shell will need to have different people authorised in different markets. The process involves Facebook verifying ID documents. Shell submits ads to Facebook before publication.
A Shell spokesman said: “We support Facebook’s efforts to be more transparent to users when it comes to advertising on the platform and we comply with Facebook regulations and policies, as we do with other social media platforms. We continue to work closely with Facebook to authorise our advertising users in the markets where its social issues policy applies.”