Just a month after a major advertiser boycott due to its perceived inaction in addressing hate speech, Facebook is now facing another protest action, this time lead by big-name celebrities, who are calling on the platform to do more to address concerns with the facilitation of divisive ‘hate, propaganda and misinformation’ related content.
As noted by Kim Kardashian – who has 188 million followers on Instagram:
“Misinformation shared on social media has a serious impact on our elections and undermines our democracy.”
Kardashian’s protest action is reportedly also being joined by actors Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence and Sacha Baron Cohen, among others, who will be ‘freezing’ their Facebook and Instagram accounts as a call to the company to take more action.
And that could have a significant effect – part of the lure of social platforms is the capacity to stay up to date with what’s happening with your favorite celebrities, and even engage with them in real-time, which helps keep users glued to these apps.
With no updates from these big name stars, that could indeed have an impact on overall Facebook and Instagram usage, and that impact could be massive, depending on how many celebrities take part, and for how long.
You would think that the relative impact would be minimal, but as many platforms have found in the past, without high-profile users, and their followings, things can go downhill quick. Vine collapsed because it couldn’t keep its top stars around, while Snapchat suffered major losses because it initially refused to engage with top users. Facebook and Instagram, you would expect, are big enough to withstand a reduction in celebrity activity – and these celebrities are also reliant on social networks for promotion in many respects.
That, you would think, will minimize the overall impact of the protest action. But then again…
As noted, back in July, the #StopHateforProfit campaign, called on businesses to pause their Facebook ad spend in protest over the company’s content policies.
The main impetus for that protest was this Facebook post from US President Donald Trump, which Facebook left up, unchanged, despite Twitter adding a warning label to the same message when it was also posted in tweet form.
The historical reference here was seen by many as an incitement to violence, but Facebook stood firm and referred to its stance of allowing political leaders to have their say, in order to let the voters decide what they think of their comments, as opposed to censoring or editing them in any way.
But this is just one example of ongoing concerns with Facebook’s approach to divisive content – which was also the subject of a highly critical speech from Sacha Baron Cohen at an event earlier this year.
As such, it’s no surprise to see Cohen participating in this new protest action. Again, how effective it will be is hard to say – but it does have the potential to impact perception of Facebook, and potentially reduce usage.
Will that be enough to get the attention of Facebook executives? Thus far, it’s remained steadfast in its approach.
But if more celebrities join in, it could become a problem, which may lead to further action.