Bob Hoffman
Jul 6, 2020

Facebook boycott: Principles or politics?

THE AD CONTRARIAN: If the current incipient rejection of Facebook is going to have legs it has to be based on principles, not politics.

Facebook boycott: Principles or politics?

As regular readers know, I’ve been yapping about Facebook and advocating an advertiser boycott of them for years. But here's a caution—if the current incipient rejection of Facebook is going to have legs it has to be based on principles, not politics.

The recent actions by marketers against Facebook were in large part set off by a Facebook post by President Trump in which he said, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

The ensuing boycott by hundreds of advertisers has been interpreted by some as evidence of pro-liberal, pro-Democrat, anti-conservative, anti-Republican, and anti-Trump sentiment. They assert that the boycott of Facebook is little more than a partisan political movement.

If the revulsion many feel toward Facebook is to be credible, the perception that it is a partisan issue needs to be redressed. Regardless of your political beliefs, Facebook is a menace because…

  • It massively violates the privacy rights of all individuals. It has collected, and continues to collect, unconscionable amounts of data about individuals without consent. It collects information about people who are not Facebook users, and people who believe they have opted out of tracking. Further, it has been shown to be utterly unreliable and irresponsible with the data it collects.
  • Its editorial policies are reckless and misguided. It refuses to admit it is a publisher and consequently feels free to ignore commonly established editorial standards of responsibility.
  • It freely admits that it runs paid political messages that it knows to be lies.
  • Its claim that it is merely defending free speech is completely without merit. Everyone has the right to speak freely. No one has the obligation to publish it.
  • It has allowed itself to become a vector for criminals, pedophiles and racists. Facebook doesn’t just publish their words, it actively seeks to connect these people through its "groups" algorithms.
  • Although it is enormously profitable, it has refused to invest in adequate moderation personnel to review the nature of what it is publishing. Instead it relies on inadequate and unreliable AI algorithms to do the job. (Facebook’s AI is like communism. It’s never very good right now, but it’s always going to be great someday.)
  • Its first response to every crisis is to lie.

The result of FB’s irresponsibility is that...

  • It has blood on its hands. Violence and politically motivated murders have taken place in response to lies and misinformation that has been spread on its platform.
  • Public confidence in democratic institutions (including elections) has been eroded because of Facebook's unwillingness or inability to attenuate the enormous amount of misinformation and intentionally disruptive content placed on its platform, often by foreign actors.

Facebook is the most dangerous company on the planet. Marketers should not be supporting it until it has clearly demonstrated that it can act responsibly.

Facebook is ruled by an individual who is miles over his head and has no sense of the damage he is doing to society.

The boycott of Facebook should not be allowed to devolve into another tiresome quarrel between right and left. it is a menace to us all.

Bob Hoffman is the author of several best-selling books about advertising, a popular international speaker on advertising and marketing, and the creator of 'The Ad Contrarian' newsletter, where this first appeared, and blog. Earlier in his career he was CEO of two independent agencies and the US operation of an international agency.

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