Woman’s ad showing her face rejected by Facebook for high chance of ‘negative feedback’

Left: Chanel White, Right: Lisa Goodman-Helfand (supplied)
Left: Chanel White, Right: Lisa Goodman-Helfand (supplied)

Lisa Goodman-Helfand has dealt with some hardships as a result of her scleroderma, but she wasn’t expecting rejection by Facebook for the appearance of her face to be one of them.

Scleroderma, a chronic condition that causes the skin and connective tissues in the body to harden and contract, is a topic that the Chicago-area blogger is well versed in, as she has been dealing with it personally for 30 years.

Goodman-Helfand writes about scleroderma as well as body image, confidence and more on her blog Comfortable In My Thick Skin. In a recent post titled ‘You Won’t Believe the Story Behind These Two Faces,’ she showcased another woman who was living with scleroderma.

“I’d written an article about myself and another woman, Chanel White,” Goodman-Helfand explained to Yahoo Canada. “The point was to illustrate that can someone can look perfectly healthy, but also be facing life-threatening health issues, while someone who doesn’t look healthy… can actually be much better off.”

White’s scleroderma affects her body differently than Goodman-Helfand’s; while Goodman-Helfand may have very visible outward physical effects from the disease, White has more internal problems as the condition is causing her to have multiple organ failure.

Goodman-Helfand’s goal in her original post was to spread a message of how looks can be deceiving, and she illustrated it with two photos: one of Chanel who looked healthy, and one of Goodman-Helfand without her make-up on – an image she had never shared online before.

As she had done previously, Goodman-Helfand paid $20 for an ad on Facebook in order to promote her content. She used Facebook’s targeting options, allowing her ad to be specifically directed at people who ‘liked’ pages about scleroderma.

But unlike previous ads, Goodman-Helfand received a rejection, prompting her to write a follow-up post explaining that the ad had been rejected because of the appearance of her face.

Facebook has notoriously stringent ad policies, and as such anyone placing an ad on the site anticipates at least a few rejections. Things like having too much text in a photo can be enough to warrant a rejection. Because of the strict policies, there are many, many photos that the live support team has to review. Even knowing that, though, doesn’t make the blow of having a photo of your natural face rejected by the algorithm any less painful.

“To hear someone say ‘images like these typically receive high negative feedback’ when they’re referring to my face, it’s a very hurtful statement,” said Goodman-Helfand. “Was it their intent? I’m sure it wasn’t.”

Goodman-Helfand received two responses from Facebook. The first appears to be an automated response:

Your ad wasn’t approved because it includes “before and after” images, or other images showing unexpected or unlikely results. It’s also recommended that you avoid focusing on specific body parts, because these images typically receive high negative feedback.

Goodman responded to the message, explaining that the photo wasn’t a before-and-after shot, that it was showing how not all scleroderma patients look the same and that looks can be deceptive to showing a person’s actual health. She asked that someone at Facebook read the article to better understand what the photos were illustrating.

The response she received to her query was signed by someone named Rachel, and reiterated the same messaging as the first response:

I’ve taken a look at your ads and see that we weren’t able to accept them because of the image used. Please note that we don’t allow images that promote an ideal body/physical image (i.e. before and after images). If you’d like to create new ads, please make sure to choose an image that complies with all guidelines.

Screenshot of the response Goodman-Helfand received from Facebook (supplied)
Screenshot of the response Goodman-Helfand received from Facebook (supplied)

Goodman-Helfand says what really grates on her about the situation is that, despite a request that a person read through the posts to see that, by her understanding, they weren’t in violation of the ad picture policy, the response she received to her inquiry read like just another automated message, and didn’t actually address her issue.

When Facebook was contacted for comment on this story by Yahoo Canada, they reviewed Goodman-Helfand’s ad submission again and, as she had originally requested, Facebook representatives looked at the blog post. A representative from Facebook said that the ad policy enforcement team made a mistake in their application of the before-and-after rule in their policy, and Goodman-Helfand’s ad will be reinstated.

Goodman-Helfand says she hopes this incident will change how Facebook conducts reviews of ad violations in the future.

“Let’s re-evaluate when someone puts in [a question about] an ad promotion,” said Goodman-Helfand. “Can we resolve things in a more humane, less digital way?”

Goodman-Helfand says that what started out as a very shocking and upsetting experience has actually turned into a positive one. In response to her post about the incident, Lisa has had commenters from around the world offer words of support and share her story on social media.

“People who take two minutes to read the original article and two minutes to read the follow-up… have come out in full force,” she said. “It’s been tremendously reassuring.”

But Goodman-Helfand stresses to those who are calling for a boycott of Facebook because of the incident shouldn’t jump to extremes. In fact, Facebook has proven to be an incredibly powerful tool connecting those who suffer from uncommon chronic conditions.

“Facebook has given us the opportunity to support one another, to vent, to talk about how we can beat this disease. It’s been a tremendous support to the community.”