37 UK charities have agreed to pause Facebook advertisements in a stand against social media hate speech
This July, Facebook’s policies for addressing hate speech are under increasing global scrutiny as big businesses boycott advertising on the platform. But the reality is that this is a problem for any organisation which uses their platforms.
In response to this moment, 37 UK charities are joining forces to form a working group that will review what’s happening, how it impacts our ability to support beneficiaries and bring recommendations of change to the social media owners.
As charities, we recognise that these platforms have a role to play in allowing us to connect with supporters and beneficiaries from all backgrounds. But we also know that not enough is being done to stop posts which incite hate and violence being made visible. No one should have to see these messages in their day to day lives, and especially not when trying to access ongoing information and support.
We believe that it’s time for social media platforms to be better, and do better by the people who use them. It’s time for them to take action to make their platforms more inclusive, a place for connecting and debate, not hate.
Hate, whether it’s based on race, gender, sexuality, disability, religious beliefs or any other characteristic, is not acceptable in society. And we all have a part to play in stopping its spread. We believe it’s important that Facebook and other social media owners hear this message loud and clear from as many people, and sectors, as possible.
Together, we will take stock of what’s happening, scaling back our social media spend where we can, without it impacting our ability to deliver vital services. We’ll review ethical marketing policies, and see how these align with those of our partners. And where there is difference, we’ll be taking combined recommendations to the social media platforms to show them how they can do better for those we support.
Charities who have confirmed so far:
Mind, The Children’s Society, Blue Cross, Parkinson’s UK, Versus Arthritis, Pancreatic Cancer UK, Good Things Foundation, Health in Mind, Changing Faces, Freedom From Torture. Youth Music, KeyRing, Teach First, The Humane League UK, Change Grow Live, Become, Dogstar Foundation, Place2Be, ShelterBox, Young Women’s Trust, Charity Digital, Womankind Worldwide , Prostate Cancer UK, MND Association, Mayhew, U3A, RNIB, Women’s Aid, Children on the Edge, Help for Heroes, Epilepsy Action, Campaign Collective, Young Minds, JDRF, Friends of the Earth, The Vegan Society, Barnardo’s, Young Epilepsy.
All you need to know about the campaign
What does this working group hope to achieve?
Through working together, we hope to uncover the real impact that hate speech on social media has on our beneficiaries. We want to identify common issues across the sector and come up with recommendations that would make social media a better place for charities and their audiences who rely on these platforms to connect.
We recognise that our concerns may be different to those of big businesses, and we also recognise that our spending power as individuals is limited. But together we believe that we can bring clear recommendations to the social media owners about how their practices impact on us, and our beneficiaries, so that we can find a way forward.
Is every charity involved pulling all of their Facebook advertising?
No. Every charity who has signed up to be part of the working group addressing these issues has done so knowing that the action cannot impact on their ability to do their work. Each charity will scale back on paid advertising wherever they can, but if they need to pay to spread their message or deliver vital income in these challenging times, they will continue to do so.
What sort of recommendations will you be making to these social media platforms?
We don’t know what our recommendations will be right now. We need to come together and spend time reviewing the current situation and how we see that it impacts on our ability to do our work. From there, we will come up with recommendations on how to approach these and put the challenge back to the owners to show how they will address them.
Why do charities spend money on advertising?
Social media advertising is an important and cost effective channel for us to reach new and existing audiences. We use it to raise understanding of key issues, share our information and support, engage people to take action for our causes and encourage individuals to support us through vital fundraising.
Like every other organisation, we have to spend money in order to make money. We need to invest to secure donations to power everything we do.
If you rely on advertising to bring in donations, why are you stopping it?
Social media advertising is a key way of generating revenue for charities, but it is not the only way. Equally Facebook and Instagram are not the only ways to reach people.
Each charity has a number of loyal supporters and corporate partners who continue to donate on a regular basis that will help to maintain income. And we’ll work creatively and innovatively to find ways to mitigate the impact on income from taking part in a one-month pause on Facebook.
Is this action going to affect your ability to deliver services?
No, maintaining services has been at the forefront of each charity’s decision making. Every charity that has signed up to the commitment has reviewed the likely impact of a one-month pause, against their expected income and ability to deliver services. Each has independently judged that it will not restrict their ability to continue their work.
Does this mean you are leaving Facebook entirely in July?
No, we’ll still be posting as normal and supporting our communities in the same ways as always. The pause is only affecting paid advertising where we will stop as much as possible without it impacting on our ability to support our beneficiaries.
Does this mean that you are aligning with the #StopHateForProfit Movement?
No. While we see some of the same issues that they are raising, we want to review social media platforms and their management of hate speech from the perspective of charities based in the UK and what this issue means for our communities. .
We fear that the hate speech that we see on these platforms is potentially stopping us from reaching everyone we exist to serve. People are turning away from these platforms to avoid the negativity, but it also stops them from benefiting from the more positive side.
For organisations like charities who do not have the budget to be able to use other, more costly means of advertising, social media has an important role to play. We want social media platforms to be more accountable for how they operate, to be more inclusive and help us to build supportive communities.
This is a US-based political initiative. Why are you getting involved?
We aren’t aligning with or signing up to the US-based movement.
However, with global attention and pressure on Facebook to change for the better, this is a good opportunity for UK charities to work together to review the platforms and feed into making them a safer place for our communities.
We believe that content driven by hatred and incites violence towards people based on the colour of their skin, their gender, sexuality or beliefs, has no place on Facebook or social media in general. More needs to be done to stop it getting there.
We hope that we can bring a new perspective to Facebook and other social media platforms, embedded in the experiences and concerns of our communities. People who may be put off using channels that could offer them incredible information and support, because of some of the content that sits on the wider platform.
If you’re not stopping all paid for advertising, you’re just jumping on the bandwagon as you’re still helping them profit from hate.
As charities, our primary responsibility is to the people we support. We have important messages that we have to deliver, for people’s safety and to ensure that they receive the expert support that they need. We have a duty to continue that, but we’re also making the decision to pause all non-critical messages during this period.
Whilst many of the big businesses who are pausing their ad spend have the option to redirect this to other existing channels including broadcast or out of home to ensure that their most important messages are shared, as charities, we don’t have that option. The cost means it’s out of reach for so many of us. Facebook remains a cost-effective way of reaching people, that we cannot afford to stop altogether.
In reality, the money that social media platforms make from charities is very small, so we believe that our power comes in a collective proposal of clear and concise changes that will benefit the communities we serve at large.
Is the money you’re withholding really going to make a difference to Facebook? How much money is this?
We appreciate that the monthly spend of our charities represents only a very small percentage of Facebook’s monthly ad revenue, but this isn’t just about the money. We know that our voices are more powerful than our pounds.
We believe that Facebook needs to be held to account for these actions and they need to see just how many organisations have concerns over their approach to moderating hate speech on the platform.
Why not apply the same principle of pausing spend on other platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn?
For the majority of charities, Facebook is the main channel for reaching beneficiaries with information and support. It’s often where spend is highest because it offers a strong ROI, which is why they are the biggest platform in terms of global ad revenue.
We do recognise that the problem isn’t limited to Facebook which is why we are committed to reviewing our use of all social platforms this month. But as the biggest player and most influential, we’re starting with Facebook.
What do you mean by ‘pausing as much paid advertising as possible’?
As charities, we have important and time sensitive information that we need to deliver to keep people informed, safe and supported each and every month. This might be about how to access services or seasonal safety reminders. It’s our responsibility to make sure that this action does not negatively impact people’s ability to access that information.
But there are other messages that we can pause on Facebook. These might be about events later in the year or fundraising initiatives. Each of us is committing to look at our planned Facebook advertising for the month and reduce it as much as we can. This might mean using other channels to reach our audience such as email or other social media platforms, it might mean holding activities to a later date.