Facebook No More. Businesses Share a Responsibility in Facebook’s Hands Off Approach to Disinformation
Facebook can be a wonderful tool for people to connect to one another and for businesses to connect with customers. Over the years, we have come to learn that Facebook and other social media tools have the power to spread information and disinformation, to both heal and promote discord. It is Facebook’s downside that’s I’d like to address here. Mark Zuckerberg’s recent decision not to eliminate disinformation and hate speech on Facebook has left me wondering about the roles of advertisers and agencies, the very people who fund the platform with advertising dollars and feed it with content. I am one of those people.
Businesses trade access to customers (existing and potential) for producing content for Facebook; in essence every business or person for that matter, on Facebook works for the platform as content producers for free. Aside from the content created, Facebook sells data from their accounts to advertisers.
The past couple of weeks have further clarified that Facebook has no intention to regulate hate speech, inaccuracies and disinformation. This decision comes in the middle of a pandemic and protest across the country, and carries detrimental ramifications for all of us. Remember, business and commerce rely on the stability of our social and political systems. Businesses aren’t removed from society, but play a critical role in it. Our economic status and progress stand squarely on the shoulders of our social contract and the health of our democracy, however imperfect.
That social contract is being challenged, and rightfully so at this time, spurred by the murder of George Floyd, yet it continues to be torn apart and further exasperated by individuals and organizations (real and bots) on Facebook who seek to use the platform’s tremendous reach to continue fester divisions and incite unrest for political gain. From fake accounts promoting violence to accounts of leaders whose posts encourage disinformation and outright falsehoods; as a result, Facebook has become an active actor in eating away at the essential fabric of our society; the public trust.
The question is when do we as advertisers say enough? The elephant in the room is the responsibility of advertisers, marketing firms, and agencies. By continuing to advertise and produce content on and for Facebook, businesses are willingly participating in and supporting the promotion of disinformation and hate speech. I have struggled with Facebook’s policies for a while. Several months ago, I deleted my personal Facebook account (though, I do have a presence for work purposes). Today, I have pulled the Facebook icon from our firm’s website. In addition, my firm will not be posting to Facebook or Instagram any longer, and will not be promoting Facebook to our clients (either advertising or organic) until there’s a meaningful change at the company.
We buy media across platforms. No media platform in the history of the world has been allowed to dispense disinformation or hate speech at this rate; Period. End of Story. So why is Facebook allowed to do it?
Certainly over the past two weeks alone, Mr. Zuckerberg has had ample opportunities to make meaningful changes to Facebook’s policies that can effectively stop hate speech and disinformation on the platform. Money is not the issue, Facebook is well capitalized and can do that in a heart beat.
Yet for many businesses, the intoxicating combination of FOMO, herd mentality, vanity analytics, and the perception that Facebook helps them reach and convert customers seem to drive and justify Facebook use. The reality is and data tell us that Facebook is really smoke and mirrors for businesses in many ways, but now, we need to ask more critical questions of ourselves, questions that go beyond commerce and more pertinent to who we are as a society. Because if we don’t have a stable society that can shoulder commerce, we won’t have commerce.
I want Facebook to succeed, it can be a force for good, and if not, at least let it be a place where no harm is done. Let Facebook make money, tons, but it has to also be a responsible actor in our society rather than undermine it.
I hope my colleagues in business and marketing join me in this effort, and let’s return to Facebook when Facebook invests appropriately in stamping out hate and misinformation.