Facebook Is Hurting Your Cause
OX Creative is committed to using our expertise to do good in the world — and supporting organizations with creative strategies to do that. We wanted to take a moment to share with you our thoughts about Facebook, including a way that we believe that organizations working to do good are actively working against their mission (and may not even realize it).
By now, you have heard about Frances Haugen, the Facebook whistleblower, who released thousands of internal documents to the Wall Street Journal, which published them in their series “The Facebook Files.” At OX, we want you to know, we believe her.
Haugen’s chief complaint is not that Facebook does no good in the world, but instead that Facebook “prioritizes profit over people.” (When we say Facebook, we are not referring to the individual social network, but instead to the entire Facebook organization, which owns Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, and Oculus).
We have seen this play out globally: Facebook knew Instagram is damaging teenagers’ mental health, is fomenting ethnic violence in countries like Ethiopia’s Tigray, was linked to an explosion of hate speech against the Rohingya in Myanmar, and were failing to curb misinformation in many other instances.
Haugen’s concerns over an apparent lack of safety controls in non-English language markets, such as Africa and the Middle East, where the Facebook platform was used by human traffickers in the Middle East and armed groups in Ethiopia, were crucial in her decision to act. “I did what I thought was necessary to save the lives of people, especially in the global south, who I think are being endangered by Facebook’s prioritization of profits over people,” she said. (See a country-by-country breakdown of the global-south, which concludes “Facebook chronically underinvests in non-Western countries, leaving millions of users exposed to disinformation, hate speech, and violent content.” )
Breaking the unintended, non-virtuous cycle
Over the last year, the Center for Humane Technology and Tristan Harris, featured in the Netflix film THE SOCIAL DILEMMA, have increased OX’s awareness of the way social media and persuasive technology are warping global society. It has also increased our responsibility as humans — and as a company.
As a by-product of our work with many different cause-based organizations around the world, we have a birds-eye view of the non-profit and cause-based sectors. We feel a burden to inform our clients and partners about what we’re seeing. What we have observed is a non-virtuous cycle in non-profits’ relationships with Facebook.
This is the cycle: Cause-based organizations give their donor dollars to Facebook in exchange for advertising, which Facebook uses to build a platform that fuels the very conflicts these organizations exist to eradicate.
This is unhealthy.
Cease funding Facebook
Because of this, we would like to recommend the following: If you are an organization that spends advertising dollars on Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp, stop. Cease funding an entity that gives energy to so many of the systemic issues you exist to end.
Continue to use the platforms for organic social campaigns. But not paid campaigns. Instead, reallocate your social advertising dollars to organic campaigns, meaningful partnerships, and content on platforms that are not so clearly disrupting the societies around the world you exist to serve.
We recognize that every organization and leader has to make their own decisions about how to respond to what we now know. We’ll of course respect yours, but we thought we owed it to you to share ours.
Innovations worth investing in
Our partners come to OX because they are looking for innovation. But innovations aren’t just about starting something new; sometimes innovation is boldly ceasing to do something before anyone else is. We aren’t saying don’t use Facebook. What we are saying is don’t give Facebook any money. We believe a pause in investment into Facebook advertising until a point in time where Facebook has more clearly regained our trust is an innovation worth pursuing.
For many organizations, the majority of their donor and audience engagement strategy is built around Facebook and Instagram. We believe innovating beyond dependency on Facebook is a wise strategy to adopt.
Specifically, if you are a marketing leader at a large organization heading into the holidays season with a campaign relying on a Facebook ad-buy, we beg you: Reconsider the efficacy and ethics of such an investment. Knowing the back-end damage Facebook will do to the communities you serve and to our larger world when the finances come full circle, we urge you to change your social media advertising strategy.
We know this may seriously disrupt your marketing plans. But here is OX’s promise to you: If you have previously hired OX to develop paid-ad content for Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp that you have not yet run, OX will reposition those ads for use in another context at no charge to you. We do not want to knowingly profit from or participate in ad-spends we believe do more harm than good in the world.
OX is committed to innovation, and that includes developing new ways for purpose-driven organizations to connect with their audiences. Our team is excited to help our clients create new strategies and move off harmful platforms.
For everyone else, let’s make Facebook #OneClickSafer. Facebook’s Integrity Team researchers found that removing the reshare button after two levels of sharing is more effective than the billions of dollars spent trying to find and remove harmful content. Frictionless sharing is dangerous. Changing the reshare button is a proven solution.
Join us in taking action. Sign the #OneClickSafer letter to Mark Zuckerberg, crafted by the Center for Humane Technology.
Ten years ago, we didn’t know what we do today about the way society can be harmed by social media. Today we don’t know everything, but we do know something and we believe that “something” is actionable. So we have a responsibility to reflect on our actions and investments, and adjust our behaviors accordingly.
Founder, OX Creative