A pro-police nonprofit organization in South Florida is accusing Facebook of refusing to promote its advertisements for an upcoming fundraising event intended to benefit the families of officers who died in the line of duty, as well as children in underserved areas of the community.
Officer Chris Swinson, president of the Southeast Police Motorcycle Rodeo Committee, told Fox News that Facebook refused to boost a post advertising ticket sales for an upcoming raffle of a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The raffle happens yearly to correspond with an in-person motorcycle event, but, due to the pandemic, the nonprofit is now more heavily relying on online ticket sales.
This year, Facebook rejected the ad on July 14, according to screenshots provided to Fox News. Southeast Police Motorcycle Rodeo Committee later filed an appeal on July 20. The social media giant sent them a message explaining, “Your ad may have been rejected because it mentions politicians or is about sensitive social issues that could influence public opinion, how people vote and may impact the outcome of an election or pending legislation.”
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“Our personal opinions on politics are not shared through the charity whatsoever. We’re not here to alienate someone, we don’t care about their political views,” Swinson insisted in a phone interview with Fox News. “Me raising money to buy computers and equipment and washers and dryers for the Boys & Girls Club has no emphasis on politics or elections.”
Facebook told Fox News the ad was rejected in error – though did not provide a date for when it was corrected.
“This ad was incorrectly flagged as political and taken down for running without a disclaimer, so we have reversed that decision,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement. “Our enforcement is never perfect since machines and human reviewers make mistakes, but we’re always working to improve.”
Proceeds from the raffle are intended to benefit charities, including C.O.P.S., or Concerns for Police Survivors, which is dedicated to helping families who have lost loved ones in the line of duty. The organization assists families with money, education, housing and additional support. It also runs camps for children of officers who have died in the line of duty and well as facilitates mental health services.
Donations will also be made to The Boys and Girls Club of Broward County. Southeast Police Motorcycle Rodeo, which classifies as a 501(c)(3) charity, often works with local retailers to make sure that each club has updated computer equipment for the children who come after school to do homework.
“Just because law enforcement backs a charity, political views should be put aside because all they’re doing is hurting the kids who are involved,” Swinson said. “These kids are coming there after school so they’re not roaming the streets.”
Given the ad itself only shows an image of the 2018 custom Harley Davidson Electra Bike, Candice Ciccarelli, marketing coordinator for the Southeast Police Motorcycle Rodeo, told Fox News she believes Facebook is “targeting all police material, even children’s charities.” She said that the charity has been around for over 32 years and has “never experienced anything like this before.”
Outside of social media, Swinson detailed to Fox News an increasing lack of support in Broward County. Besides Harley Davidson, other sponsors who have supported Southeast Police Motorcycle Rodeo in the past are now more hesitant to align themselves with the group after a year of anti-police demonstrations struck the nation, Swinson said, arguing that those companies, “don’t like the optics of backing police anymore.”
Tickets for the bike raffle are $1 each. The winner will be announced at an in-person event in September, which will include face painting and bounce houses organized through their vendors.
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“We’re trying to humanize the badge here,” Swinson said. “As motorcycle officers, we have the image of not being the friendliest guys. So the reason why this was adopted, was to bridge the gap with the community. I want them to see a motorcycle officer not for the guy that’s walking up in tight pants and boots behind you. I want you to see that guy interacting with his family and his friends, hugging his kid and competing to raise money for children’s charities.”
Unlike other 501(c)(3) organizations in Broward County, Swinson said he and his Southeast Police Motorcycle Rodeo board members do not pay themselves salaries through the charity.