Communities of queer, polyamorous, and other marginalized people are making dating apps to cater to their long-underserved communities, but Facebook’s advertising policy could drive a wedge in their efforts to reach others.
Facebook has twice denied ads from the queer- and kink-friendly dating app #open, first objecting to the phrase “sex-positive,” then saying the app does not “reflect the global audience on our platform,” in part because it promotes hook-ups and group relationships.
“Facebook has decided that sexuality is only acceptable on their platform if it pleases their ‘global audience’ who, according to them, isn’t quite ready to accept the idea of ‘casual dating,'” Wilson wrote.
The company’s view, Wilson said, seems at odds with the fact they have “hundreds of polyamory, ethical/consensual non-monogamy, kink, and swinger discussion groups with over 350 thousand active users seeking to engage with those online communities.”
Wilson sees Facebook as the most influential platform to reach the marginalized communities free LGBT dating their app is made for. With the petition, her team hope to bring awareness to the ways in which, in trying to censor inappropriate content, mainstream digital platforms hinder certain groups from building communities.
“Getting to that large user base cost-effectively without being able to use the major digital platform that’s our standard for marketing today, it just makes it a lot more difficult to get your users and drive attention to what we’re doing,” Manliguis said.
In , Manliguis submitted an advertising application to Facebook including the ad they wanted to run, which had the word “sex-positive” written on it.
“Within two hours of submitting just the general application, we got kickback from Facebook saying that we were not approved because we offer couple and group options, and that puts an emphasis on sex,” Manliguis said.
Reviewing the advertising policies, they saw that Facebook does not have a ban couple or group sex apps, so they decided to change the wording.
This time, Manliguis dropped the “sex-positive” tag line, removed the word “kink,” and all imagery of groups or couples. Still, the ad was rejected.
That time, Facebook said their “advertising policies are informed by detailed global user sentiment analysis to reflect the global audience on our platform,” according to a message the company sent to #open. The message continued, saying Facebook couldn’t onboard #open as a dating advertiser because “we do not allow dating services that promote hookups or sites with ‘couple’ or ‘group’ options.”
After the second attempt, Wilson and Manliguis noticed that other dating services like OkCupid and Tinder had advertisements on Facebook.
“There were other competitors who had successfully been able to advertise [on Facebook] with content that I would say is and very sexually suggestive,” Manliguis said.
One example, which Wilson included in the petition, was an OkCupid ad on Facebook that said: “Foreplay or get right to it.”
“When you’re saying that you can’t have any sexual emphasis, that seems a little strange to us,” Manliguis said of the OkCupid ad.
What’s more, OkCupid also offers non-monogamous couple options. Many people who use Tinder, among other mainstream dating apps, share accounts with their partner, using the platforms to engage in alternative relationship dynamics.
Reddit told #open that they don’t allow any dating apps to advertise on its platform, according to an email correspondence between #open and Reddit that Insider obtained.
Snapchat sent #open a message saying they denied the app’s ad request, and any dating service that advertises on its platform “must not be provocative, overtly sexual in nature (includes imagery, sounds, and text), reference transactional companionship, or promote or glamorize infidelity.”
In an email, a Snapchat representative told Insider, “we aren’t able to comment on individual accounts beyond reference to our public ad policies.”
According to a Reddit spokesperson, the platform allows certain dating ads, but with restrictions. “For example, dating services and brands must work directly with our sales team to place ads, and Reddit requires a quarterly spend threshold for those advertisers. We’ve found that these safeguards are important to ensure the highest quality advertising experience for Reddit users,” the spokesperson said in an email.
In July, Salty, a newsletter and digital publication aimed at women, transgender, gender non-conforming, and non-binary people, noted that Instagram, a platform Facebook owns, banned Salty ads featuring transgender and gender non-conforming people.
And Google Play, the tech company’s app store, removed Hornet, a gay dating app, from its store and was accused of anti-gay discrimination, BBC reported in August.