Kylie McMullan and Paul Nixey: So you boycotted Facebook. Now what?

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      By Kylie McMullan and Paul Nixey

      Last month, our two public relations agencies—traditionally competitors—teamed up to ask other Vancouver PR agencies to join us in the #StopHateforProfit campaign.

      The campaign, started by a coalition of groups that includes the NAACP, Color of Change, Sleeping Giants, Free Press, the Anti-Defamation League, as well as others, asked businesses to stop advertising in July on Facebook and Instagram to pressure the organization to do more to moderate hate speech and stem the spread of disinformation.

      We asked other PR agencies to join us in the campaign because even though big Vancouver brands like MEC and Lululemon joined, it’s actually small and medium businesses like ours that make up 70 percent of Facebook’s ad revenue.

      Though we may be small business owners independently, collectively we have a lot of power. We appreciate joining the campaign has been hard for many businesses, small ones included—with the pandemic, it’s harder than ever to reach consumers and Facebook ads are often an important part of a marketing strategy.

      However, there was good reason to be involved in this campaign. Facebook’s own audit concluded that they caused setbacks in civil rights. The audit also shed light on Facebook’s troubling unwillingness to create strong rules against misinformation, voter suppression, and hate speech.

      After civil rights leaders met with Facebook executives in July, they left disappointed that the company would not commit to any timelines or urgency to address these issues other than for hiring a civil rights position.

      Facebook knows this is a problem. Facebook has an opportunity to make changes. Facebook just doesn’t seem to care.

      A lot of businesses and PR agencies joined us. Now we’re all asking… what’s next? 

      Even though the month of July is over, here’s some things we can do to keep the pressure on:  

      1. Continue the boycott. If this an option for your company, continue to vote with your dollars by not running Facebook or Instagram ads or boosting posts.
      2. Sign the #StopHateforProfit petition
      3. Share #StopHateforProfit content through organic posts on your company and personal social channels
      4. Continue to be engaged and informed about where your social media dollars are going and if they are supporting companies that align with your values

      The Black Lives Matter movement continues to inspire and propel us to try and be better—and it’s why we have placed our support behind this campaign. Since we took the lead on the PR front here in Vancouver, we’ve been having robust conversations with clients, activists, and agency owners alike.

      It’s easy to feel frustrated that Facebook hasn’t made any significant changes However the Anti-Defamation League CEO sees the campaign as a win. This is the first time advertisers have realized their power over Facebook, and the boycott created substantial dialogue around Facebook’s practices. Other social media networks took notice. 

      What happens in the digital world has real social implications in the offline world.

      We hope PR and advertising agencies like ours will continue to hold Facebook accountable. We all have a responsibility to create a better world both online and off. 

      We’re not giving up.