A number of charities have instigated a boycott of Facebook, over what they see as an insufficient response to hate speech on the platform
In July of this year, Facebook’s policies for addressing hate speech on their platforms were under global scrutiny.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has experience increasing criticism following what has seemed like a lack of policy on hateful, violent and racist posts on the social media platform. Organisations, such as the Center for Countering Digital Hate and the Stop Hate for Profit Coalition, have been putting pressure on the company to be more active in implementing policies to stop this content. However, the platform still doesn’t seem to be changing.
In response to Facebook’s latest Transparency report, which suggests that levels of hate speech are rapidly increasing on the social media platform, Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate, said:
"These figures suggest that hate speech is exploding on Facebook. We have been warning for some time that a major pandemic event has the potential to inflame xenophobia and racism.
"Facebook always underinvest in human review, instead prioritising shareholder profits that have made Mark Zuckerberg the world’s newest centibillionaire. They will continue to do so until they are forced either by advertisers - who give them 98% of their revenue - or, as a backstop, legislators and regulators, who can impose fines and criminal charges for non-compliance with their statutory duty of care to users."
- Imran Ahmed, CEO of the Center for Countering Digital Hate
In response to what was happening on Facebook, Charities Against Hate was formed. The group included some 37 UK charities who agreed to joined forces to review ethical marketing practices online and on social media. All 37 charities agreed to temporarily pause paid Facebook advertisements as a direct response to Facebook’s questionable hate speech policies.
Alongside Charity Digital, organisations such as Barnardo’s and Parkinson’s UK and Mind all joined the Charities Against Hate group in July. Companies such as Coca-Cola and Starbucks also temporarily suspended all Facebook advertising in response.
Since it’s creation in July, Charities Against Hate has now formed a Twitter page, where they keep followers updated on their activity and showcase the support of other charities for the initiative. Charities that are part of the group or who wish to align with it, can create a tweet and use the Charities Against Hate social media graphic.
A majority of charities now use social media and online platforms for fundraising, relationship-building, raising awareness of key issues, supporting their services, providing vital and trusted information and much more. Therefore, many charities feel they should be championing inclusion and digital ethics if they are to continue using these digital platforms.
Following the initial Facebook advertising boycott in July, participating charities now attend weekly meetings to assess social media platforms and ethical digital marketing practices.
The aim of the meetings is to gather information to present to these social media platforms, policy makers and the wider public on how they can best alter their digital marketing practices to be more ethical.
The group is intends to produce a collective proposal on how to best use these platforms to ensure the safety of their groups, individuals and communities they serve.
So far, the group has been looking into the experience of their beneficiaries, staff and volunteers on social media. They’ve also been researching ethical partner policies for the sector and the impact on wider fundraising; existing data and information on the impact of hate speech on mental health; and ethical marketing practices for the sector.
For many smaller charities, Facebook advertising is a staple in both their marketing and fundraising efforts. For these charities, it may be difficult for them to not use the platform and to sustain a boycott longer than 1 month.
What’s more, charities of all sizes regularly use Facebook advertisements as they’re cost effective and allow you to target audiences more specifically. Some charities may have struggled to find a viable alternative to this advertising.
This not only raises the question ‘will charities be able to continue this boycott long term?’, but also ‘how sustainable/ is the sector’s relationship to Facebook advertising? Charities may now begin to look further afield for advertising alternatives.
Platforms that could see increased advertising use from charities:
Ultimately, the pressure on Facebook to change their policies will no doubt be a good thing for charities in the long run. For many organisations, the communities and individuals they serve are vulnerable people and could very likely be a target of hate speech. If Facebook introduces stricter measures, this will make online platforms safer and more comfortable for everyone who uses them.