Facebook and the effort to stifle decentralization

Unfortunately, Facebook doesn’t support our business model.

Resonate was recently featured in this Billboard piece on services that are trying to help artists earn more from streaming.

While we don’t pay for advertising on Facebook, we were credited with $10 to get us started, which we decided to spend boosting this post. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t approved.

In January of this year, Facebook announced a new policy that would ban ads “that promote financial products and services that are frequently associated with misleading or deceptive promotional practices, such as binary options, initial coin offerings and cryptocurrency.” A piece in a reputable music publication, mentioning “blockchain” three times and “cryptocurrency” twice, was thus deemed unfit for promotion because of these “associations.”

Music Tech Fest also had trouble boosting their post about the Mycelia labs led by Imogen Heap, which solely mentioned the word “blockchain.” While sources reported that Facebook’s policy would ban ads promoting cryptocurrencies and ICOs, many neglected to mention that this policy extended to any post mentioning blockchain as well. Facebook’s new guidelines prevent ads for anything “associated with” distributed ledger technologies from running, regardless of whether they relate to cryptocurrencies or not.

Mycelia is working to figure out how blockchain tech might solve a variety of issues in the music industry. Founder Imogen Heap has experimented with distributing music on the blockchain, and believes that the technology could streamline licensing and collaboration.

While potentially harmful actors in the crypto space are a real threat, the conflation of dangers and scams with legitimate technologies is another matter. Facebook’s efficacy and reach when it comes to advertising is indisputable. For it to prevent any ads relating to these decentralized technologies is not only a major disadvantage for those seeking to promote them, but it may also hamper the pursuit of decentralization itself by discouraging these conversations from happening on the world’s most widely used social network.

Rob Leathern, their Product Management Director, issued a statement acknowledging that Facebook’s “policy is intentionally broad” as they “work to better detect deceptive and misleading advertising practices.”

Facebook is just one of many other platforms who are trying to steer clear of promoting services associated with crypto. Mailchimp’s acceptable use policy is similarly broad, stating that they “cannot allow businesses involved in any aspect of the sale, transaction, exchange, storage, marketing or production of cryptocurrencies, virtual currencies, and any digital assets related to an Initial Coin Offering, to use MailChimp to facilitate or support any of those activities.” These services end up conflating services related to or building on blockchain tech with predatory crypto scams — is this a result of a lack of education? Or is it due to an inability to distinguish legitimate projects from scams?

Perhaps if we give them the benefit of the doubt, a picture emerges that they’re erring on the side of caution and protecting consumers. But what this also does is inhibiting conversations around decentralization from effectively reaching a mainstream audience.

So perhaps Facebook actually doesn’t support our business model, and this makes sense. Resonate values user privacy, and is working to eventually decentralize, which stands in stark contrast to their operations and values. It’s been speculated that decentralization will uproot the dominance of centralized, monolithic platforms, so given Facebook’s business model and their current position in the general public consciousness, they’re doing well to avoid promoting this conversation.

It should be said that we don’t support their business model either. That’s why we don’t pay for advertising on the platform, though perhaps you could say that we’re guilty by association (we’re still on it, at the end of the day). Admittedly, this is at odds with our values.

Resonate is working to sustain independent culture, and the adverse effects of Facebook on independent culture and underground music have been observed. Thankfully, an important conversation is being had. We want to channel our resources and efforts back into independent music, not away from it, and hopefully we’ll eventually be able to move off the platform entirely. After all, our end goal is to build a music ecosystem that’s healthy and independent — one in which artists can build sustainable careers on their own terms.

If this speaks to you, please join us.

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