Facebook Bans Ad Containing 9/11 Footage for “Shocking, Sensational” Content

After September 11, 2001, Americans made the united declaration that they would “Never Forget” the terror attacks that took 2,977 innocent lives and rocked our sense of security.

World Trade Center Towers on September 11, 2001 (Image from flickr)

Eighteen years later, Facebook has determined that the well-documented reality of that day’s disturbing events is not appropriate for its audiences. Just days before the anniversary of the terror attacks, the website refused to host an ad for a 9/11 docuseries because it “uses an image or video that contains shocking, sensational, or excessively violent content.”

Facebook’s notice was delivered to veteran-owned, veteran-operated company Nine Line Apparel, which sought to use the site to advertise “Unshaken Courage,” a four-part docuseries and full documentary produced in tribute to those whose lives were lost during the attacks of 9/11.

According to Nine Line Apparel’s marketing department, ads for three segments of the “Unshaken Courage” docuseries were initially denied by Facebook. An ad for the documentary was likewise denied, and cited for alleged use of “profanity, implied profanity, or insulting language.”

Facebook’s rejection of Nine Line Apparel’s ad for “Unshaken Courage”

After Nine Line Apparel appealed these denials, Facebook approved ads for two segments of the docuseries and the full “Unshaken Courage” documentary. They stood firm in their determination to deny an ad for the first segment of the docuseries, “The Businessman.”

Nine Line Apparel’s ad rejection, on appeal, from Facebook

“Unshaken Courage” uses footage from 9/11 and its aftermath to visually tell the story of the attacks on the World Trade Center from the perspectives of those who experienced them. The denied segment, “The Businessman” features local café owner John Delutro.

In “The Son,” Pat Dowdell describes learning that his fireman father likely perished during the collapse of the World Trade Center. This video also names each of the 343 FDNY firefighters who lost their lives in 9/11.

Sean Hannity talks about the day’s horrors and the threat of radical Islamic terrorism in “The Broadcaster.” “Terrorism is real. Evil exists,” Hannity explains. “I watched it. I witnessed it. I saw it. I lived it.”

Bernard Kerik, the New York City Police Commissioner on 9/11, discusses his actions on the day of the attacks in “The Commissioner,” which also names the 23 members of the NYPD who died on that tragic day.

The “Unshaken Courage” documentary, released on September 9, is the newest component of Nine Line Apparel’s annual 9/11 commemoration. As they have in previous years, in the weeks leading up to the anniversary, the company also released a new limited-edition “Ground Zero” t-shirt, proceeds from which benefited the FDNY Fire Family Transport Foundation and the NYC Police Benevolent Association’s Widows’ and Children’s Fund.

On previous anniversaries of the 9/11 tragedy, my Facebook feed has been a reminder of a time when Americans united in mourning. For one day, my family and friends of all political affiliations still come together to recall how those attacks changed our way of life.

Facebook claimed that Nine Line Apparel’s ad “goes against our core value of fostering a positive global community.” But by banning historic footage of an event that impacted the American public so greatly, Facebook is encouraging us to forget what we experienced, and who we promised to remember.

Commemoration of 9/11 deserves more than a static image of the World Trade Center as it stood on September 10, 2001. It begs revisiting the footage that floored America and her allies on a beautiful September day eighteen years ago.

“Never Forget” means we should not alter the way we recall the panic and terror that unfolded within us as we watched commercial planes strike skyscrapers which would then crumble and implode. It means we cannot shrug off the way that our fear rose when a third plane struck the Pentagon, and a fourth crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. It means not turning away from the memories of 2,977 victims and their families, and it means steadfastly fighting for the heroes who continue to be plagued by illnesses brought on by their efforts to save as many lives as possible on 9/11.

The tragedy of 9/11 is part of our American history, and the way we absorbed it at the time, through live footage that came without trigger warnings or censorship, is the exact way it should be recalled. Facebook’s ban of an ad displaying that visual history is deeply problematic, though it is hardly surprising given the company’s recent history of censoring conservative groups while allowing other sites free reign to spew hate and discord.

Social media sites continue to use bans to tell users what they can say, what they should believe, and now, how they can commemorate important historic events. On 9/11, and everyday, Americans can show the social media giants that we will not allow any entity or individual to censor our memories or tell us how we are allowed to pay tribute to our American heroes by flooding Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter with the images and videos which we promised eighteen years ago never to forget.

Freelance writer working on a novel about love and the war in Afghanistan. You can find my work in the Washington Examiner, the Federalist, and the Detroit News

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