As you’ve probably heard, there are some reputable brands that are taking part in a boycott of Facebook, requesting that better policies are put in place to enforce regulations barring hate speech and the spread of misinformation. As former journalists, media reps for some of the largest and most diversified media companies in the country, and strategists who came to Dirigo Collective to connect media with people in more responsible ways – this topic hits close to home for our entire team.

The campaign called Stop Hate for Profit is in partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change, Common Sense Media, Free Press, NAACP, and Sleeping Giants. They have very direct product recommendations for social media platforms that you can read more about here. A few brands that have recently headlined this boycott include REI, The North Face, and Patagonia. These organizations and brands have come together around the idea of pulling their advertising dollars from Facebook and Instagram through the month of July, in order to bring about recognition and change within Facebook. Some of these brands – like Patagonia – come as no surprise, as they often use their social platforms as vehicles for activism.

We have a few considerations we are asking our clients, before committing to an action that – while we believe it has merit – may not apply for every brand.

  • Many of the brands participating in this boycott are regularly using their platform as a voice for activism on this matter, and similar social injustices. While some of these brands are pulling their ad dollars from the platforms (Facebook and Instagram), they do intend to continue to use these spaces for their own marketing and communications. This leads us to this recommendation; if your values align with boycotting the platform, it would be disingenuous to continue and use it. Pulling your advertising is a direct punch to the gut, but the greatest way to create an impact for any media channel is to curve the audience’s usage and engagement.
  • Platforms like Facebook are a reflection of our society, and while they can be an agent for changing the nature of human behavior, we cannot forget that this platform’s intent is to discuss our culture. This leads us to sharing the emphasis on sound channel strategy with our clients, and investing toward value-driven content. If you want to curve the spread of misinformation, you should focus on the source of that information first – not the platforms that people use to share it on. Our Responsibly Different™ list is made of channels and networks across linear and online platforms that are focused on the highest standards in journalism and entertainment.
  • Since the emphasis on measurement and streamlined currencies in the media exchange (along with the boom of agencies and major holding companies), there has been an emphasis on “getting the best deal” over what should be considered most – which is getting the most value. By prioritizing value over inexpensive viewing and data, this directly impacts how content and journalism is produced – creating more just information in the first place.
  • When asked ‘what is driving to an online community site’, i.e. social media, the second most popular answer with users in the U.S. was ‘to connect with people of similar interests’ (GWI). This goes back to our previous point; if you want to change the spread of misinformation and hate speech, we believe focusing on a platform built for sharing with friends, family, colleagues and the like will not curb the root of misinformation, which comes from the larger media monopolies that develop the majority of content that’s spread.

  • History tends to repeat itself. This is not the first time Facebook has been in the spotlight. From Cambridge Analytica, to the data privacy hearings where CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg testified to 44 senators in 2018, this will make headlines for a few days or weeks in the marketing community -maybe a little bit to the larger public- but will likely fizzle out quickly. For brands that do commit to boycotting the platform, think of how you’re going to sustain that, should July turn into August, September, or even through the general election. These matters will not go away, but the attention likely will. Are you prepared to pull the plug on this for longer than a moment in time? Many of these calls to action will not happen overnight, or even in a month’s time. The work doesn’t stop, and we see that through the improvements made to the platform regularly. Just last week, users gained the option to block political advertising, and targeting options were disabled around age, race, and gender last summer for ads relating to employment, housing, and credit. Tech giants like Facebook get the limelight typically because of the public’s lack of understanding for the platforms. The dangerous part is how hate speech and the spread of misinformation online continues outside the reach of social giants, and lives blurred behind newsroom walls and entertainment houses from the executives who run them.
  • As consumers grow weary with messaging from influencers and celebrities, and meaningful connections become harder to find online, consumers are looking for more personal relationships with brands (GWI). Is now the time to shy away from where people are engaging? Can we create the change we want to see with these platforms through better content and more proactive calls to action than simply investing elsewhere?

These are just a few of the conversations we are having and looking into regarding how we approach this movement’s boycotting of Facebook in the month of July. Currently the social footprint for this is small, with brands that this action already fits into their existing voice. To put together a blanket recommendation for all brands to partake, we believe is irresponsible. Not only for the businesses that may depend on this platform, but also for the movement itself. ‘More’ does not equate to ‘Better’, and we fear that if not approached strategically, it can create more harm than good in helping make these platforms – woven into our everyday – a better place for now, and for the future.