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Facebook rejects ads for 'Florida Strong' T-shirts, veteran CEO says there's bias against conservative messages

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Image source: Video screenshot

Veteran-owned clothing company Nine Line Apparel has come into conflict with Facebook over ads for a T-shirt the company is selling to raise money for Hurricane Ian relief.

Tyler Merritt, a retired Army captain and CEO, told "Fox & Friends" that Facebook rejected an advertisement for a T-shirt that says, "Florida Strong." Facebook's parent company, Meta, claimed the ad was banned because it "mentions politicians or is about sensitive social issues." Meritt said the T-shirt design was not meant to be political.

"I think we were representing what every American wants to do out there. We want to support Florida. We want to show a commitment to rebuild in this incredible devastation that Ian's left behind," he told Fox News host Brian Kilmeade.

"We've done this before with other natural disasters, to come to aid physically and to bring cash and resources. We're actually boots on the ground as of yesterday, working with the community cooperative. Handing out generators. Handing out fuel. And everyone loved these shirts. They asked, 'why can't I find them? Why can't I see them?'"

Merritt said Nine Line Apparel has had a "longstanding" issue with Facebook's algorithm, which flags certain patriotic products and shuts down advertising for those products.

"They have you reach out to them and say, 'hey, would you please allow this advertisement to go forward? It doesn't actually make mention of any political individual [or] initiative," Merritt said. "But most of the time it falls on deaf ears."

Fox News reached out to Meta for comment. The company said, "in this case, the advertiser marked the ad political in nature when submitting it for approval. Running such ads require prior authorization and because the advertiser had not gone through that process, the ad was rejected."

"Given that the ad is in fact not a political ad, all the advertiser needs to do is submit the ad again without marking it political," a Meta spokesperson said.

But Merritt said that Meta had its facts wrong and that his company never marked this ad as political. He said that as a small business owner who has spent millions of dollars on advertising, he needs more clarity from Facebook on what its policies permit.

"It seems that there's a trend that anything that is deemed conservative gets flagged, gets hindered, and gets stopped. And I, to date, have not been able to reach out to an individual until last night, when I got a phone call late in the evening asking how could Meta come and help our company," Merritt said.

"We've been attempting to get ahold of a human being at Meta for the last year ever since we were flagged and banned from the platform because of advertisements that they deemed inappropriate five, six years ago that got flagged," he added.

"There is an algorithm out there that is targeting organizations like ours, in my opinion, and there's no individual that we can reach out to. And it's horrible."

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