FACEBOOK PROTEST: What that means for the public sector

Facebook has been in the news of late with big brands announcing they’re suspending advertising with the platform.

The reason for with holding ad money is a perception that Mark Zuckerburg’s company has been seen to be tardy in cracking down on hate speech.

Starbucks, Microsoft, Adidas and North Face are amongst a list of global names who have have suspend their corporate spend.

So what does this mean for public sector comms?

UK public sector spending on Facebook is so tiny the debate is partly academic. Even if it acted as a sector the noise it would make would be tiny

Should it suspend advertising on the platform?

That’s a question for comms people looking to give advice. I’ve not heard of anyone from the public sector suspend advertising on Facebook.

Sure, there’s things to be unhappy about as far as it comes to Facebook. Some commentators have warned of the platform’s corrosive effect on democracy.

But for me, this is audience driven. If the audience is there advertise to them. If they’ve gone elsewhere go elsewhere.

For the most part, the audience of corporate public sector pages are women aged 35 to 55. I’m not convinced they are backing the cancel Facebook campaign.

But the underlying lesson is that nothing is permanent. For Facebook’s apparent dominance there are plenty of other media companies who have enjoyed then squandered a position of dominance.

Until there is a better way of sharing cat videos then Facebook is likely to be around for a while.

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  1. Hi Dan,

    You might not be surprised that I’m going to raise an issue that we have exchanged about before. I am still using Facebook, as you say, it’s where people are. But it’s also where people get radicalised, where they get confidence from each other that they are not alone in holding hateful views, and where people and organisations with deep pockets feed them with false and damaging information.

    I am increasingly thinking that people with an agenda that is concerned with the good of society need to start to have some moral leadership in this sphere. Your analysis is aimed at public sector organisations, naturally, and I’d like to ask some of them how they feel about playing a part in encouraging people to use a platform which can be so damaging in many contexts. And I know that Facebook is not the only platform where these kind of things happen, but, if you contrast how Twitter, for example, has started to take a stance against Donald Trump’s hate speech, Facebook strikes quite a contrast.

    I don’t think you or I as individuals, or even the public sector as a whole, can have a big influence on persuading people that using Facebook is bad for their physical and mental health, but lots of people are leaving it behind precisely because of its toxic nature. My concern is that the people who stay, in part at least, are those who are there because they would struggle to swtich to another platform. And some of these people are the most likely to be affected by false and hateful information.

    I don’t have a solution to this, but I think if any of us are in the business of suggesting to people that they continue using Facebook (or even start using it) we need to put it into the context of the negative aspects of the platform.

    1. Hi John. Firstly, I’m glad to see you are on the mend even though it is two steps forward and one step back at times. Thanks for commenting on the post. I think we share many of the same concerns. All social platforms have a track record of being used to recruit and radicalise and its good to see that Twitter is belatedly taking steps. Where I think we differ is that I think people and public sector organisations SHOULD use Facebook. I say that because that’s where people are and if we have identified harmful narratives we should be in the platform mounting counter narratives. Wigan Council did just that effectively in challenging misleading reporting that suggested Wigan was about to enter a local lockdown. If they hadn’t have been there, active and with 38,000 people liking their page they couldn’t have managed that. The answer, I think, is not to leave the field but to create a clear voice.

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