September 22, 2021
Would you take a Facebook or Instagram break? Why civil rights groups want you to log out
Would you log off from Facebook and Instagram for a day? How about three?
Social justice and civil rights groups are urging consumers to join a nationwide boycott starting Nov. 10 to protest what they say is the social media giant's failure to address the destructive role it plays in American life, from the deadly COVID pandemic to the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.
Kairos, which is organizing the boycott, is calling it The Facebook Logout, the technology-focused racial justice group exclusively told U.S. TODAY.
"People make this platform powerful, and without users, there is no Facebook," Mariana Ruiz Firmat, executive director of Kairos, said in an interview.
The boycott's website says: "We're really over Facebook. So we're logging out." It encourages other users to take the pledge.
"From allowing white supremacists to plan a violent insurrection to ignoring disinformation for profit, Facebook is doing their worst," it reads. "So we're doing the thing that will get Facebook's attention: logging out."
One of the boycott's demands: The removal of Mark Zuckerberg as CEO.
The consumer boycott comes as the drumbeat of criticism and rumblings of other boycotts intensify.
Facebook is on the defensive after the publication of a five-part Wall Street Journal investigation that used leaked internal documents to show the company knew about the harms it causes, including to the mental health of teenage girls on Instagram.
Nick Clegg, Facebook's vice president for global affairs, condemned the Journal investigation, dismissing charges that Facebook executives repeatedly ignored warnings about the harmful effects of its products and policies.
"These stories have contained deliberate mischaracterizations of what we are trying to do," Clegg wrote in a blog post. He did not say what the mischaracterizations were.
Firmat says people are fed up with Facebook shrugging off responsibility.
"The public is tired of providing 98% of Facebook's revenue through ads, yet having no say in the governance of the platform," she said. "People are desperate for collective action and The Facebook Logout provides a way for people to use their power to demand change."
Other demands include an overhaul of content moderation policies, data policies that protect users' privacy and a strategy to combat disinformation "that does not prioritize Facebook's bottom line."
"These are just the tip of the iceberg, the beginning of a long-term fight to ensure that all platforms are a safe place for our communities to gather and organize," Firmat said.
One of the many challenges organizers face: Facebook is a hard habit to break for long. The company has billions of users on its apps including Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp.
Groups involved in the national logout include the Action Center on Race and the Economy, Accountable Tech, Daily Kos, Free Press, Media Justice, MoveOn, and UltraViolet. All will mobilize their members. Together they reach 3.1 million people.
The starting goal is to have at least 200,000 pledge to boycott Facebook who, in turn, invite their networks to take part.
"The focus of this campaign is as much about showing people the power they hold as it is about impacting Facebook's bottom line," Firmat said. "It's important for people to know that we don't have to be complacent with the terms Facebook sets or just be grateful for the tool. Because we make or break Facebook, we expect to play a role in the process of deciding how the platform is governed."
Leaders of the Stop Hate For Profit social media boycott group are also discussing whether to organize consumers in a campaign against Facebook, according to a recent Axios report.
Stop Hate For Profit launched an advertising boycott campaign last summer after Facebook refused to take down a post from then-President Donald Trump that many argued incited violence.
Hundreds of advertisers including major consumer brands pledged not to spend money over concerns Facebook wasn't doing enough to stop hate speech. But the exodus of spenders was not enough to push CEO Mark Zuckerberg to make the level of change that critics are demanding and did not dent the company's bottom line.
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