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TECHNOLOGY

Why the NAACP Wants People to Boycott Facebook–and What That Means for You

Facebook critics are piling up. Is it time to listen?

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BY Guadalupe Gonzalez - 19 Dec 2018

boycott facebook

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

Update: This post has been updated to include a response from Facebook.

It may be time to rethink your social media strategy, or at least have a backup plan.

Facebook, the largest social media network in the world, is under hot water, again. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), one of the nation's oldest and largest civil rights groups, has called for a weeklong "digital protest" against the company starting Tuesday, according to a statement released on its website. The campaign encourages NAACP members and followers to log out of Instagram and Facebook in protest of its platform's "history of data hacks which unfairly target its users of color." The group also said it had returned an undisclosed donation it recently received from Facebook, after a Senate report released Monday revealed that a Russian misinformation campaign heavily targeted African American voters.

"We want Facebook and its peers to make provisions that ensure that their platforms aren't co-opted by bad agents [looking] to spread misinformation," NAACP communications director Malik Russell said in an emailed statement. He added that the protest aims to hold Facebook accountable and empower users to speak up. "The interference that occurred during the 2016 election cycle produced results that communities of color are disproportionately affected by today. Facebook allowed foreign agents to take advantage of the racial tensions in the country, and as we head into the 2020 elections, we need to see that they've put in adequate structures to reconcile their past mistakes."

In an emailed response, a Facebook spokesperson acknowledged and apologized for the social network's security incidents and privacy missteps, saying: "We continue to invest in solutions to keep our platform safe and improve...We've also doubled the team that works on security from 10,000 to 20,000." Further, Facebook on Tuesday released an update from a civil rights audit, which highlights tweaks to the company's political ads policy and community standards to increase transparency and curb misinformation in its platform.

African Americans are more likely to use Facebook to communicate with friends and family than the rest of the population, according to data from the Pew Research Center. The vast majority of black-American adults--70 percent--use Facebook and 43 percent use Instagram, data shows. While it is still unknown how successful this protest will be, it should be noted that it is not the first time users have threatened to boycott Facebook. Earlier this year, the movement #DeleteFacebook gained popularity in the U.S., although it didn't really impact the company's user stats, according to SEC filings.

Nevertheless, criticisms of Facebook are piling up. The company is also facing pressure from 31 nonprofit organizations, including Muslim Advocates, MoveOn, and the National LGBTQ Task Force, to change its leadership team. The groups penned an open letter asking CEO Mark Zuckerberg to step down from his role as chairman of the board, and to remove COO Sheryl Sandberg from the board entirely, among other changes.

No matter what the tide brings for Facebook, you may want to start diversifying your social media strategy.

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