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Dialogue or boycott: How should communicators deal with Facebook?

As communicators, we all have a duty to think about the impact of our communications.

The recent boycott of Facebook by advertisers poses ethical concerns for the PR profession as well.

We have a duty to ensure that we do not support channels which promote hate speech. Yet, at the same time we must defend free speech. And, of course, quitting a channel which helps us reach our audiences is not a wise comms decision.

That’s why it has been refreshing to see the approach taken by leading charities.

A coalition of 37 charities, and our social enterprise Campaign Collective, has urged social media owners to take action against hate speech online.

The group recognises that these platforms have a role to play in allowing us to connect with supporters and beneficiaries from all backgrounds. But we also know that not enough is being done to stop posts which incite hate and violence being made visible.

No one should have to see these messages in their day to day lives, and especially not when trying to access ongoing information and support.

We believe that it’s time for social media platforms to be better, and do better by the people who use them. It’s time for them to take action to make their platforms more inclusive, a place for connecting and debate, not hate.

Hate, whether it’s based on race, gender, sexuality, disability, religious beliefs or any other characteristic, is not acceptable in society. And we all have a part to play in stopping its spread. We believe it’s important that Facebook and other social media owners hear this message loud and clear from as many people, and sectors, as possible.

Together, we will take stock of what’s happening, scaling back our social media spend where we can, without it impacting our ability to deliver vital services.

We’ll review ethical marketing policies, and see how these align with those of our partners. And where there is difference, we’ll be taking combined recommendations to the social media platforms to show them how they can do better for those we support.

In practical terms, this means a working group has been formed which will review what’s happening, how it impacts campaigners’ ability to support beneficiaries and bring recommendations of change to the social media owners. 

And while this review takes place, while we will continue to use Facebook to help get our client's messages out there, we will not spend any money promoting our posts or on Like adverts.

It is unlikely that one approach will fit for all campaigners – and even less so to include all communicators – but I would welcome the thoughts and comments of the PR and communications profession to feed into the working group.



You can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn if you would like to join the conversation and we will host a special PRCA Charity and Not For Profit Group event on the topic in the coming weeks.