Facebook has earned its spot on the list of the most-used social media platforms over the years, gaining popularity on a global scale. While the website is mainly used to share photos or to communicate with friends and family, a newfound political platform has taken shape on the website in recent years. Instead of reading the newspaper with their morning coffee, many users have opted to scroll through their Facebook feeds, accrediting their knowledge of current events to social media.
But unlike a traditional newspaper, Facebook allows users to publish content for the whole world to see, without an editor’s approval. As a result, controversy emerges. And, don’t get me wrong, that’s part of the beauty of Facebook–the ease of voicing your opinion to the world–but where do we draw the line?
All eyes are on Facebook, as the platform continues to show tolerance for posts with harmful rhetoric, most frequently exhibited by none other than President Trump. In recent weeks, outrage has surfaced after Trump has attempted to delegitimize matters such as the Black Lives Matter Movement, conveying misinformation and dangerous propaganda. His infamous tweet, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” in reference to the riots that followed the heartbreaking death of George Floyd, earned a ‘warning’ on Twitter, due to “glorified violence.” But is a warning enough?
Facebook has received lots of criticism for its refusal to block President Trump’s violent posts, seemingly turning a blind eye to the application’s policies on hate speech. Facebook defines ‘hate speech’ as: “a direct attack on people based on what we call protected characteristics — race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, caste, sex, gender, gender identity, and serious disease or disability.”
Sounds familiar, right? Despite attacks on many of their so-called “protected characteristics,” Trump has gotten away with countless hateful posts, targeting many of these groups by over-generalizing and spreading misinformation. Even as the president of the United States, you don’t get a loophole; you must follow the same policies that every other Facebook user does. Yet Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of the application, has disregarded Trump’s violations of his hate speech policies, claiming “people should be able to see what politicians say,” in a CNBC interview.
But this has not gone unnoticed. Dozens of marketers have agreed to pull their ads from Facebook for the month of July in hopes of plummeting the company’s profits as a form of protest. The boycott, organized by the advocacy group, Stop Hate For Profit, coalesces ADL, Color of Change, Common Sense, Free Press, LULAC, Mozilla, the NAACP, National Hispanic Media Coalition and Sleeping Giants. As a result of the coalition, these prominent advocacy associations have “joined together in solidarity with targets of racism, antisemitism and hate.” Stop Hate For Profit aims to target Facebook and call them out for their permissive behavior surrounding harmful posts. The companies who have denounced Facebook’s poor handling of hate speech and misinformation throughout the platform have pledged to hit ‘pause’ on advertising on the social media platform.
Among some of the biggest spenders on Facebook ads joining the #StopHateForProfit movement is Starbucks, who spent $95 million on Facebook ads in 2019 alone, according to The New York Times. Brands like Starbucks who have global recognition will make the biggest impacts on Facebook.
But this is not to say that every single company taking the pledge does not count. The list of companies pledging to #StopHateForProfit is expanding by the day. By withholding their ad dollars from Facebook, these brands have pledged to stand up to hate and extremism.
Here’s what you can do: Sign this petition. Urge Facebook to honor their hate speech and violence policies. Support brands who have taken the pledge to #StopHateForProfit. Read up on Stop Hate For Profit’s recommended next steps to take.
Even as users, we can bring awareness to what’s going on behind the scenes on the social media platforms we use. What goes on behind closed curtains is drastically different than what the face of the company presents. Holding companies accountable is necessary if we want real change to materialize.