You’re probably very confused by the headlines, as this seems to come out of nowhere.
Will it be less confusing if I said: America?
Yep, the land of the free that made countries around the world simultaneously go: da hell happened over there?
The short answer is: For years, people don’t like Facebook not doing anything about hateful content.
Because it’s 2020, George Floyd happened.
Then Trump said hateful stuff (which Twitter attached a warning to, but Facebook didn’t). More stuff happened and the “civil war” intensified.
Then now, the boycott of Facebook happened.
If you’re still, understandably, confused, here’s the long version.
The Discussion Held About Hateful Content Over Years
There are these organisations — ADL, NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense — who have had private discussions with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over the past years over one common problem:
How to improve Facebook dealing with racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic, white supremacist and otherwise violent content.
Facebook is simply too big a platform now to not regulate anything.
But, as we can tell, those private discussions did nothing much.
Then George Floyd And Trump Happened
Since George Floyd’s death, not only was there many protests all around the world and discussions about racial injustice or social inequality, there was also a rise in hateful and white supremacist content on Facebook.
Which included… *drum roll*… Trump.
Yes. The dear President of the United States, Donald Trump. There are a lot more examples out there, but here’s an example that says “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”:
“These THUGS are dishonoring the memory of George Floyd, and I won’t let that happen. Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!” https://t.co/GDwAydcAOw
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 29, 2020
Previously, Trump had also called protestors “thugs”, among other things. It should be noted that protestors are not one homogenous unit and are leaderless. There are also many peaceful protests happening around the world.
Twitter had since flagged Trump’s tweets as “glorifying violence”. Which isn’t censorship, since the tweets are still viewable. They just come with a warning.
But wait! What about Facebook, the platform that is even bigger?
Facebook announced some rules, but the organisations thought that these were “empty remarks” that didn’t address the problems.
I was on @cnni this afternoon shortly after Zuckerberg’s disappointing town hall. We should have been informed of plans for civil rights infrastructure or a framework for curtailing radicalization on the platform. Instead, we got empty remarks. pic.twitter.com/Jt8InxBPL4
— Rashad Robinson (@rashadrobinson) June 26, 2020
So The Group Of Organisations Banded Together And Seek Support
ADL, NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense, realising that they would need to do more than just drink a cup of atas coffee with Mark Zuckerberg to make real changes, set up the Stop Hate for Profit campaign last week, asking companies to stop advertising on Facebook in July.
On the site, they claim that Facebook “allowed incitement to violence against protestors fighting for racial justice in America”, and have worked with news sources that have records of working with known white nationalists.
On top of that, Facebook “turned a blind eye to blatant voter suppression on their platform”.
In other words, it’s not just any single issue. This call for a boycott is influenced by many issues America faces.
The rationale is this: more than 90% of Facebook annual US$70 billion revenue (this is their figure for 2019) is made through advertising. If big companies stop advertising, that should influence Facebook to do something.
And The Huge Companies Agreed To Do So
And by huge, I mean huuuuuuuuuuge.
To name a few, this includes Starbucks, Microsoft, Unilever, Coca-Cola, Honda, and many more that we won’t list cause the list is probably only to get longer and longer.
Currently, there are more than 120 companies already.
(Some like Coca-Cola are technically not joining the boycott but just pausing advertising.)
Will Facebook budge?
It is said that Mark Zuckerberg became $7 billion poorer from falling stock prices because of this boycott.
I wonder how many Cai Pngs can that buy me?
But reportedly, a Facebook executive had told advertisers that they would not “make policy changes tied to revenue pressure”.
Some are also suggesting that this is nothing for Facebook.
“I don’t think the boycott for the month of July will be material for Facebook,” said Ali Mogharabi, a senior equity analyst at investment research firm Morningstar.
Other experts also think that Facebook revenue is expected to go up despite the economic downturn.
Whether you agree with the boycott or not, this does reveal one thing: Facebook is so big that even more than 120 big companies banding together can’t definitively influence them to make a decision.
As for the final result, we will have to wait.
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