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Bidon 2020 bottles raise alarms at Facebook

Published September 26, 2019

LONGMONT, Colo. (BRAIN) — Facebook, apparently in an effort to curtail foreign influence in U.S. elections, made a Colorado bike accessory brand jump through regulatory hoops before letting it promote its "Bidon 2020" water bottles on the social network site.

"We tried to explain, 'this is a gag based on the French term for a cycling water bottle,'" but Facebook didn't buy it, said Brian De Groodt, owner of Dispatch Custom Cycling Components. 

Instead, Facebook required De Groodt to register as a political affiliate before he could promote the bottles on Facebook or Facebook-owned Instagram. "I had to provide my passport, my home address, and say whether I was involved with any other political organizations ... then they came back to me asking for more information," he said. 

Eventually he was given the go ahead to run boosted posts promoting the bottles. The authorization doesn't extend to a British-born contractor who normally handles Dispatch's social media. "I have to go put in and create the draft and create the ad and then (the contractor) can control the spending. I found that amusing," he said. 

De Groodt came up with the bottle idea while on a bike ride this spring. Facebook's stance is not the only pushback Dispatch has received for the design — some Instagrammers unfollowed Dispatch after it began promoting the bottles, apparently not getting the joke.

"I don't want to pick a fight with our critics, but I'll say I do wish some people would take a second to read," said De Groodt, a registered independent. He noted that the bottles are available with red or blue caps. "We wanted to stay balanced," he said (in what could be some early polling data, blue caps are outselling red three-to-one).

Despite the balanced cap color approach, De Groodt concedes that his company targets social media ads for the bottles toward cyclists who lean left, politically. "We can get pretty precise, actually. We can target the ads at people who identify as cyclists and who liked Joe Biden on Facebook," he said.

Dispatch has sold more than 150 of the Specialized-made bottles direct. They are also available to shops at wholesale prices. Dispatch also sells a sticker with the "Bidon 2020" logo. 

Dispatch's main business is in custom headset caps, which it provides to many shops, events and individuals. De Groodt also owns, which sells mountain bike handlebars, and Siren Bicycles, a handmade frame company. He works in the software industry when he's not running his bike brands.

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