Facebook is being accused of deliberately targeting a US veteran-owned business that has a page on the platform because the merchandise they sell features images of President Donald Trump, even though they sell merchandise around politicians on both sides of the aisle.
The apparel company, American AF, had 1.6 million followers when it was permanently banned earlier this month.
Facebook has confirmed the news, saying that the items promoted by the company – that had been present on the social platform for five years – were misleading because they featured “Trump” and “Keep America Great” branding.
Facebook's explanation of the move, which reports say came without any prior warning to the owners of the page, suggests that the purpose of the ban was to protect official merchandise affiliated with the Trump campaign.
But CEO Shawn Wylde said that American AF is independent and never falsely claimed to represent the Trump campaign merchandise. Some of the artwork featured on the apparel is based on political satire and parody, and is not limited to Republicans, as Democrats like Bill Clinton were also depicted.
All this made Wylde conclude that Facebook was maliciously targeting them as a form of punishment, rather than as an attempt to protect the official Trump campaign brand.
Trump, his son, Donald Trump Jr. and other close associates in the past shared some of the designs on social media.
“It was done to punish us, to stop us from doing what they think is helping Trump in the election,” Wylde, a former military officer, said of Facebook's action.
He also said that his business – that had $15 million and is expected to reach $10 million in sales in 2019 and this year, respectively, while also spending millions on Facebook ads over the years – has been “killed” with this decision.
Facebook offered to help Wylde set up another page and continue advertising – after shuttering the original, hugely popular one, American Military News reported.
Now, the only way forward for American AF might be a lawsuit against Facebook, in case the giant decides to stick to its decision and refuses to reinstate the page.
Timothy Parlatore, a lawyer for Wylde, said the ban represented an illegal breach of contract that caused significant monetary losses to his client.