Facebook is often held up as the target for all the ills of social media. The last few days have been no different but the focus is a little sharper. The Stop hate for Profit campaign which is US focused and seems oddly disjointed is claiming major brands as allies in the campaign designed to hit Facebook where it hurts. In the bank balance.
Some of the brands have simply ‘pressed pause’ on spending advertising dollars with Facebook and Instagram. Some have said they will do it during July. Others, like Ben and Jerry’s will continue for the rest of the year – at least in the States. Verizon is the latest to be ‘recruited’ although whether the company was actually recruited or made its own decision to pause advertising on Facebook is a matter for some debate. Other brands (Diageo, Starbucks and others) seem to be making far reaching decisions about advertising on social media as well.
If it works and gets the momentum that the organisers obviously hope for, it will hurt Facebook badly. The problem for the organisers is that Facebook is now too effective a ‘platform’ to be ignored lightly. That said, Facebook is still a one-sided business and relies hugely on advertising revenue.
Part of the problem is ad placement. Some of the placements that people hold up to ridicule can almost be amusing in their bad taste. The advert for a funeral home, for instance, that inadvertently shows up next to the story of the bus crash is so tasteless that some satirical magazines have a column of the most absurd examples.
When this kind of thing happens and people are upset anyway, when there is an incident that triggers a feeling of mass anger, everyone gets involved and, in this case, everyone decides that the thing they dislike most is Mark Zuckerberg.
It also brings to a crisis a conversation that has been bubbling along for some years now.
Is Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram or Tik Tok) a platform or a publisher?
If Facebook is a platform, then it should be uncensored, according to promoters of free speech. If it is a publisher, then it must edit its content. And that is well-nigh impossible, given issues such as the speed at which people post stories and the sheer volume of posts during a day.
Whichever way the debate goes and whatever the outcome of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, social media, the icon of free speech and free expression must change forever. The free ride with people’s data is over.
Whether Facebook changes itself, or social media, particularly Twitter, is hobbled by Donald Trump, we face the end of an era. The direction of travel for the world, towards globalisation until recently has now changed entirely.
We are heading towards a new nationalism and a new way of judging people and people’s opinion. Whether that is good or bad will be judged by history but change is happening right now.