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A screenshot of the rejected "Road 96" ad. Image: Yoan Fanise/DigixArt

Indie developer Yoan Fanise says Facebook rejected an ad he attempted to post about his road trip video game earlier this summer, citing restrictions on ads over politics, elections and social issues.

Why it matters: The rejection appears to be the result of an overzealous ad filtering system, raising questions about how a social media giant analyzes submitted content.

  • "First, I thought it was a joke," Fanise told Axios.
  • His upcoming game, called "Road 96," is set in the fictional country of Petria and invites players to "flee the regime" on a "risky road trip to the border." Its hook is that players' journeys will play out unpredictably as the game customizes their travels.
  • Fanise's rejected ad makes no overt political references, showcasing images of the virtual road trip while showing phrases such as "escape from a country in turmoil" and "reach the border."

Between the lines: Fanise expected no troubles when an agency he works with attempted to post ads for the game in June.

  • But a rapid rejection hours after submission was followed by a June 28 email from Facebook's ads team that states "some of your ads don’t comply with our Advertising Policy for social issues, electoral or political ads. "
  • The email said the ad "may" have been rejected due to inclusion of real political figures, mentions of elections or "[i]mages, statements or slogans about social issues, such as the economy, environmental policy, or civil and social rights."
  • It posed Fanise with two options: "edit your ad to remove the content or get authorized to run political ads." Fanise did not respond.

The big picture: Fanise says the incident raises questions about freedom of expression online and whether Facebook has the ability to automatically screen text on submitted ads.

  • "I thought about [the movie] 'Minority Report,'" he said. "This is a robot checking in advance what you're going to do and decide for you, no you're not going to do that."
  • Facebook did not provide comment about Fanise's situation nor clarify how such ads are technically screened.
  • Its written ad policy, developed partially in reaction to the spread of political misinformation on its platform, acknowledges that "[o]ur enforcement isn’t perfect, and both machines and people make mistakes."

Go deeper

Progressives target Taylor Greene

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

A progressive group is using Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) as a test case for a law that's supposed to restrict the use of outside money in shaping the legislative process, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: New complaints against Greene by End Citizens United have broader implications for a new breed of conservative lawmakers whose identity is built around their reputations as provocateurs rather than achievements as legislators.

16 mins ago - World

U.S: Nord Stream 2 "will not move forward" if Russia invades Ukraine

U.S. State Department spokesperson Ned Price during a press briefing at the State Department in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. will make sure the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline between Russia and Germany won't go ahead if Russian troops invade Ukraine, State Department spokesperson Ned Price told NPR on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Germany's ambassador to the U.S. appeared to support Price's strong rhetoric on the strategically significant pipeline that would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion, per Axios' Zachary Basu.

Scoop: Stephanie Ruhle to replace Brian Williams on MSNBC

Photo: Nathan Congleton/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

MSNBC will soon announce plans to move morning anchor Stephanie Ruhle to the 11 pm ET hour that Brian Williams turned into an elite destination, two sources familiar with the move tell Axios.

Details: The 9 am ET hour, currently hosted by Ruhle, will become part of MSNBC's flagship morning show, "Morning Joe," which currently runs from 6 am to 9 am ET.