Facebook is no stranger to controversy, and in spite of all the attacks they have endured, they always managed to bounce back. They even brush off widespread boycotts.
If you build a better mousetrap like Facebook has, and your mousetrap works amazingly well in practice, you can stand to take a few jolts here and there and come out of them relatively unscathed.
With the old-style mousetrap of advertising, which has always been dominated by big advertisers with their big budgets, a widespread advertising boycott of your business, involving many household names, will alarm you a great deal. Threats of this sort of boycott speak in a booming voice and is ignored at your peril, where this coercion can be very effective in seeking change when it places the targets of these boycotts in such a tough spot.
This threat of a boycott is a serious one, and the boycott that so many popular brands and companies have unleashed upon Facebook to try to force them into increasing the level of censorship they use would have at least had the appearance of power over the world’s most successful social platform, but sometimes things aren’t quite what they appear to be.
When you have 1,000 of your advertisers boycotting you, even just temporarily, and these names include Coca-Cola, Unilever, and Starbucks, this would scare the daylights out of most companies who get their revenue from this advertising. It’s not that this didn’t sting Facebook, but when you consider how great their reach is, with 6 million clients competing for views from Facebook’s total subscriber base of 2.6 billion people, they are far from your normal media outlet.
What makes Facebook stand out so much is their vastly superior way that they can target advertising. With traditional media, the same ads are shown to all viewers, but Facebook can even allow local companies with niche interests to take well advantage of their platform and show their ads only to those intended instead of the national audiences that popular traditional media require an interest in.
This allows them to be less concerned about Coca-Cola as they have so much interest from advertisers of all sizes and the big ones just don’t carry the same weight they normally do. These big advertisers aren’t used to not getting their way though, and are trying to twist Facebook’s arm pretty hard anyway.
Advertiser concern and input generally is far more powerful than most people realize, mostly because they don’t get to see what they aren’t supposed to. The media isn’t just controlled by the puppet strings of their advertisers, but these strings definitely limit the behavior of these outlets who are prevented from presenting information in ways that the people who actually pay their bills and put money in their pocket would find too objectionable.
We can really see the effect of this when we compare popular media with information out there that has been relegated to social media mostly, such as the ongoing exaggeration of the threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, which continues on even today. It’s hard to blame this on the input of advertisers themselves, but the appetite for the increased revenue that creating widespread hysteria provides has been incentive enough.
This is just one example of the many ways that popular media seeks to shape the truth, and advertisers definitely contribute to this. We can only imagine the uproar that a more honest debate about the misgivings of conventional medical practices would cause, as popular media make a lot of money from companies that provide or are associated with this profession, which creates such a strong bias that discussion is not welcome at all, and in fact they do their best to maintain whatever distortions there may be out there about a particular topic.
We at least have social media now to be able to discuss these things, or anything we wish to, at least mostly free of the strong editorial bias that is clearly out there. Social media is truly a media of the people, where the views of all can at least theoretical all be heard by people simply sharing them.
The idea here is not to say preemptively which views are more correct and valid than others, as the regular media is so eager to do, but to instead create a dialogue where we can see something from all sides prior to decide what we believe. This is the fundamental principle behind the First Amendment as well, covering the freedom of speech and the freedom of the press.
What social media allows for is this discussion that we are supposed to be having to be opened up a lot more, no longer completely under the thumb of traditional media, who publish what they see fit and not necessarily what the people see fit, and in practice, this leaves a lot left out which has to be discussed among ourselves. We now have the power to do this, provided that we are continued to have the opportunity through such platforms as Facebook and others.
Ideally, these platforms would allow users the full freedom to exchange whatever ideas and thoughts they wish with others, to be read and judged by the public at large. Should the discussion get so out of hand that laws are violated, that’s what laws are for. Along the way, it is natural that we will find plenty that we may not agree with, but good discussion can never be limited to telling people what they want to hear, as what some don’t want to hear is often even more important and cannot just be left out.
All social media platforms employ some sort of censorship though, even though they are not supposed to. They generally prefer that we don’t know about these things, where they just exclude things based upon what they consider to be in the public interest, their purported community guidelines that get infringed merely out of their wishing certain information be denied us, such as the truth about the safety of vaccines for instance, which is a whole different tale than what people are told by so-called health authorities and the media at large.
We never want to try to hide the facts of anything though, and this even includes the fact that there are many people who do hold views that are clearly racist. We’ve already well proven that some wishing to pretend that these opinions do not exist is not the way to solving the problem, not that we are even entitled to solve them this way.
If the Anti-Defamation League, the organization behind these recent boycotts of Facebook for not doing enough to stifle free speech, thinks that all we need to do is keep people from sharing this on social media and they just won’t feel that way anymore, they are simply fools.
Freedom of Speech is Critical if We Wish to Remain Free
The only real way to deal with these views is to actually get them out in the open and debate them, and we may never be rid of these ideas as we so often disagree about many things, but we must resist the urge to be pompous and feel that we are entitled to our own opinions while others are not just because we say so.
Given that those of us who oppose this feel that we are on the side of what’s right, we’ll never promote the rightness of our thinking merely by telling opponents to shut up like this. By not opposing their irrationality, it will just persist and even fester as they have to resort to expressing their anger in ways that we find even less appropriate than just getting these things off their chest.
Repression is not our friend here, it is our enemy, our biggest enemy in fact. Facebook is far from a perfect defender of freedom of speech, but still deserves to be lauded for their not being as willing to cave into the demands of this organization and the advertisers that are hanging on their coat tails and shaking their fists collectively at the company.
When this story first hit, we were concerned that Facebook would just lie down to these advertisers, and while this was a time where the pressure wasn’t all that great, with just a few on board at the time, we knew that this would escalate. It did, but other than what looks like some good public relations, where they are willing to throw the mob a bone to show that they do care, Facebook has mostly stood their ground and still believe in the importance of free speech generally, so far anyway.
Ideally, Facebook should not have to do anything here, because that’s not what these platforms do. Conventional media filters the truth, but platforms that exist solely to promote discussion should never seek to intervene this way, being willing to corrupt their very reason for existence, as a medium for public sharing.
Social media has become so ubiquitous and influential that it has now been a proxy for discussion, where a lot of the things that we would discuss with one another on a personal level now becomes replaced to a large degree by social media communication. We also now enjoy the ability to much better target what we see and read with our own particular interests, and this adds to the value of the product in the eyes of advertisers as this allows them to target their ads even better.
In a very real sense, protecting free speech generally and protecting free speech in the social media are tasks that have now converged, and if we’re willing to sacrifice social media free speech, we aren’t just one step away from losing this right, we are already there.
This is why we need to treat social media companies as common carriers like we do with telecommunication companies, and then and only then be in a position to extend constitutional rights to their users. There are legitimate constraints upon free speech, which the Supreme Court has defined, and our allowing our ability to enjoy the freedom of speech when face to face but not when we communicate online simply does not jive in the real world.
This situation is not unlike going after the phone company because someone said something to someone over the phone that we object to, as the phone company is merely a carrier of these messages and should not be just letting us hear what the majority likes, or in this case, what pitchfork pounding groups that represent minorities wish. Even if everyone but you didn’t like what you have to say, this is not justification for shutting you up.
If people want to heed these calls and take pains not to offend, that’s perfectly up to them, but this process must be voluntary in order to be fair at all. If we don’t like what might be said in certain Facebook groups, we do not need to be a part of them, and we must realize that those members probably are offended by at least some of our own views, yet we are not so eager to submit.
Even if we do take a collective good approach to this, where we do not care whose rights we trample on to achieve our goals, restrictions on free speech serves to worsen the discontent as well as the actual consequences of views we see as harmful, and the mission of the Anti-Defamatory League, the Black Lives Matter movement, and anyone else who wants to stand with these groups on this issue should not be to create a façade by way of oppression, to try to hide the problem as best they can, suppressing one of the symptoms and making the disease behind them even worse.
That is not what this needs to be about though, how we may seek to subvert people to make the streets look safer, like they round up homeless people when they want to hide them more, because at the end of the day, we’ll still be left with the hate, but it will have grown. If we wish to rile these people more, this is the perfect way to do it actually, by just telling them to shut up and hope they will listen and want to shake our hands. They will not, and their thoughts are more likely to turn into actions far more dangerous than mere words.
If you want to see white supremacism grow, all you need to do is anger them even more and especially give them more valid reasons to oppose you. We have already set race relations backward a long way from this new movement, because while a random person may be more sympathetic, these aren’t the folks that we need to convince, it is the ones that we have enraged even more.
There is Much More at Stake Than We Realize with this Boycott
Facebook’s handling of this matter may be even more important than the decisions of the Supreme Court about the freedom of speech, as this one involves repression on a whole different scale, one only normally seen in the most repressive countries out there. These are governments we love to hate on that basis, but we need to remember why, and need to understand that what this boycott seeks is to have us be more like those countries in practice.
For the same reasons as we may find attempts by the government to silence us as being so vile, we need to feel the same way toward those who wish to silence us by any means, including and perhaps especially including shutting people up on social media, and even trying to blackmail social media carriers like Facebook to try to force them to become more repressive.
While Facebook did try to smooth this over and look to at least partially appease the mob, they did so in a dignified way instead just pulling down their pants willingly for a spanking like we have seen so much lately from other organizations. The fact that so many of their advertisers have grabbed their sticks to try to punish Facebook makes this even more heartwarming versus just giving in to complaints from those with extreme views just because they asked it seemed.
We normally need some sort of real quorum of consumers, capable of reducing your business materially, to even make sense for a company to change, where enough fans get upset with the Washington Redskins name that they need to become something else.
Never mind that the even the vast majority of Native Americans are perfectly happy with the name, even seeing the representation of their culture as being honorable, which is exactly how the team has used it. The world may not change much without this, but the fact that the team has finally bended against their will to a view that has seen very large companies like Fedex side with radicals on the far periphery and support them by punishing the team, that should both scare and shame us more than it does.
The left-wing mob may have racked up a lot of scalps lately, and we at least needed someone to at least try harder to stand up to this disturbing new radicalism. Facebook chose a little trim instead and have kept their scalp so far at least, to their credit. There may not be many more out there who can afford this much courage though given Facebook’s unique situation and level of power over their own destiny.
Facebook seems to recognize that these threats that they now face are for the most part temporary, and a boycott with one-month expiries speaks loudly to the fact that these companies actually need Facebook more than Facebook needs them. They won’t want to pay too big of a price in lost business to take such a harsh stance against the fundamental freedom of speech, one of the central principles that our very country was founded upon.
This looks like a Mexican standoff with the only guns involved being the ones that these advertisers are pointing at their own heads, as we wait for them to put them down. Facebook never even drew their gun, and instead have stood courageously against this attempted partial coup, with no indication that they plan on throwing in the towel anytime soon.
The fact that this is not believed to affect Facebook’s business in a meaningful way certainly does help. RBC Capital analyst Mark Mahaney recognizes this, but he feels that It will only be an issue if management makes it one—if they’re really tone deaf and perceived as unwilling to listen.
It’s not that Facebook hasn’t been willing to listen, it’s that they aren’t so willing just to bow down to these interests and embrace an authoritarian regime style of censorship, one that should remind us of what we love to hate about countries like China, who have no qualms in taping whatever mouth shut they choose, those who speak out in a way that they don’t like.
This is exactly what is being sought here, and there is a lot more on the line than just whether Facebook turns more Chinese. The country itself is at risk for that, and while only the most talented psychics may have foreseen our fundamental freedoms being bashed and threatened as much as they are today, with even shareholders’ rights to their own property now on the chopping block, this threat has become very real.
This is a scary time for America, and there is enough burning from these ideological riots to not want to add overt censorship to the world’s biggest social platform. At least Facebook shareholders haven’t been put out by this, as Facebook stock is doing fabulously, boycott or not.
We were a little concerned that this might be seen as an excuse for the stock to pull back, and if it was looking for one, this certainly would have qualified. Facebook stock has gained throughout this and sits up 16% for the year and continues to look strong, and even stronger now that it has parried this attack on how they run their business and even what role they play.
Facebook is supposed to be just a medium for people to share, nothing more and nothing less. It is a way that we can take our temperature as a society by looking at what people are thinking and saying, and along the way, if we run into matters and topics that we find distasteful, we need to be sharp enough to understand that the intent of people’s views may not be to entertain us.
We should at least wish to hear from those whose views we oppose, as there is no chance of reconciliation or understanding without communication. The judgement of society is enough and the most we can do in fact when confronting evil, instead of approaching the problem as being out of sight, out of mind, allowing us to better evade the truth and think that this somehow makes things better.
In a manner all too real, the American Revolution is being fought once again, in 2020, and those who now oppose our freedoms are an even more imposing enemy than the 18th century British who only wanted to tax us too much. That’s just the ante with this new one, where both our freedom and our prosperity is now under serious attack.
We may only be at the stage of the first shots being fired in this battle, but some big weapons are being lined up against us, and stripping our freedom of speech is just the beginning. This new move toward communism at least has left us retaining the popular vote, unlike regimes that seize political power to enforce their will, so no matter how terrible things get over the next 4 years, we’ll at least be able to strike back.
4 years is a pretty long time though, and stockholders need to really make sure that they are paying attention and be ready to head for the lifeboats once the war starts and our side starts taking a lot of casualties.
As far as stocks go right now, Facebook looks pretty solid. The voices of those who think that they sky surely must be ready to fall given how pricey Facebook and other leading stocks are increasing in volume, not that Facebook is all that pricey compared to the average stock, but anytime a stock does significantly better than average, the Chicken Littles can’t help raising their tone.
The sky seems to be resting on a different precipice, in the face of stark political radicalism that has now engulfed the country. When we see an incoming student at Marquette University show her support for the President on campus, and along the way uses what the university claims is “discriminatory language,” and that language merely consists of using the term “illegal immigrants,” which may get her tossed out of school, we’ve gone more than one bridge too far, showing just how much our First Amendment rights have been eroded already.
You would think that academics would realize that without discrimination, language would not even be possible. What they really meant to claim is that the language was deemed to disparage by way of racial discrimination, but that would have too easily exposed them to the criticism that criminals do not merit such protection, especially when this involves factual claims such as there being people residing in the country who are not here legally and a desire that we enforce the law more over ignoring it. In this new frontier, favoring law and order is in itself deplorable, and those acting illegally have now become a protected group, where we can neither criticize them nor even mention them, as shocking as this should be.
Surely, any objections to their heinous political biases would be seen as even more objectionable, as how dare we oppose law-breaking, how dare we declare our support for the President of the United States in an election year and share parts of his platform on a college campus. With our freedom of speech evaporating this much, and even our property rights being on the chopping block now from “Robin” Biden and his band of angry men and women, the subversion may be just beginning.
While we wait and wonder what sort of country we are becoming, hold on to both your hat and your stocks tightly.