Dogwood is pausing our spending on Facebook ads
Facebook has a notorious reputation.
It has undermined democracy through targeted (read: Black) voter suppression and facilitating a breeding ground for bots. It promotes climate change denialism and has been weaponized by white supremacists. It has misrepresented how it manages users’ data.
Make no mistake. None of this is unintentional.
Facebook’s algorithm is purposefully designed to elicit an emotional response from anyone who logs onto their newsfeed. It is literally addictive. Yes, a viral video of a kitten causes a rush of endorphins Facebook knows will make you come back to its platform again and again. It prioritizes posts it knows you will share and comment on, and filters comment threads to show only the most polarizing remarks — even if they are promoting lies or discrimination and hatred.
And Facebook profits every step of the way. It made money off third party apps by giving over the personal information of unknowing users. Like an arms dealer, Facebook makes money off all sides of every election — and the hackers, trolls and dark money seeking to influence them. And they continue to shirk responsibility for their actions.
This month, companies and non-profit organizations across the world are joining in a boycott of Facebook’s advertising services. The #StopHateForProfit campaign is intended to hit Facebook where it feels it most — right in the profits. B.C.-based companies MEC, Lululemon and Arc’teryx have pledged to withdraw advertising from Facebook, as have local non-profits like CPAWS, Georgia Straight Alliance and Sierra Club BC. Now, with huge corporations like Coca Cola, Ford, Target and Starbucks joining the campaign, Facebook’s shares are falling and CEO Mark Zuckerberg is starting to scramble.
Dogwood will be joining the #StopHateForProfit boycott as well. The money we pay Facebook is a mere molecule in a drop in the bucket. We spend very little on advertising and we don’t consistently run ads. I doubt Facebook will even notice that we have consciously decided not to run ads this month.
Why do we run Facebook ads at all?
We’ve talked about it a lot among our staff. We’ve known Facebook has traditionally put engagement ahead of human rights. We’ve known they are careless with their users’ personal information. We’ve known it is a breeding ground for hatred.
But Facebook offers an online community for our supporters in a way that nobody else does. We love being able to connect directly with British Columbians. We love being able to reach new supporters. And we love being able to cultivate safe spaces to discuss important issues.
We used to be able to do most of this work through the organic (non-paid) opportunities Facebook provides. But over the past couple years, Facebook has been gradually choking off our ability to connect with British Columbians where they are, forcing us to pay for advertising services.
We use advertising sparingly and strategically. We wait for watershed moments in order to make the greatest effect. When we need a large showing of support for a campaign, we might use a Facebook ad to reach beyond our usual choir of supporters, like we did with our Resilient Recovery letter writing action. And when we want a sounding board for a project we are working on, like our map of projects for a better B.C., we might use a Facebook ad to gather feedback.
What about free Facebook posts?
Some organizations and companies are completely eliminating any Facebook use for the month of July. Our social media followers are an important part of our community, so we will not be limiting regular, unpaid posts. We want to continue to facilitate a safe, online discussion.
We have heard that many of our supporters trust Dogwood to post unbiased, important news on our page, and we want to continue to provide that service. What’s more, we know when we give up space on this platform, it creates a vacuum. It leaves a gap for narratives from the other side — alt-right groups, climate change deniers, Jason Kenney’s war room — to fill your news feed.
Every time a new revelation about Facebook comes up, we weigh all these things to make an informed decision about our interaction with the social media platform. We rely on our Facebook community for feedback to inform these decisions as well — if you think we should change our interaction with Facebook, please let us know.
How you can help
There is something you can do to participate in #StopHateforProfit even if you aren’t an advertiser. Connect with Dogwood in other ways. Sign up for our e-mail newsletter. Read our blogs. Sign up to volunteer. Help us grow and reach like-minded British Columbians so we don’t have to pay for advertising and are less reliant on Facebook in general. Share our blogs and petitions with your friends, talk about our issues, ask your friends to sign up our e-mails.
To our online community, whether through Facebook or some other medium, we see you and we value you. Thank you for participating in the deep discussions. Thank you for supporting our work. Thank you for sharing your perspective. Thank you for representing your corner of the province.