What can boycotting Facebook accomplish

Tagged: decentralized & social media

I feel a disturbance in the Face.

A number of companies are boycotting advertising on Facebook this month. They join together under the banner of #StopHateForProfit. Being neither shareholder of $FB nor advertiser on the platform makes me a mere Non-Payer Character on the Borg Social Cube. I'm saving the #DeleteFacebook card for a more opportune time though. Now it's time to grab some popcorn and watch a fight.

What I'm seeing happen right now is a new shift in the dynamics of power: from totalitarian - all power in the hands of a few at FB - to a new configuration where over a billion users can bargain with Mark Z via a proxy of a union of advertisers. Previously powerless users now have a sufficiently loud enough collective voice to bring the Z to testify before the Ad Senate.

A single user might lead to a few bucks in ad spends. Even the most distasteful content gets impressions and clicks. One user could #DeleteFacebook and none of the 45000 or so Facefolks (have not been able to confirm that's what employees are called) would notice. It's not like you're applying to renounce citizenship.

Mark Zuckerberg started a Social Network not a Social Enterprise. It's now a public company, chartered to make money for its shareholders. And make it rain money they have, bringing in billions of bucks a month (well over a billion a week). The money almost exclusively comes from selling ads.

By building a self-service ad platform, Facebook is able to scale up to millions of small advertisers, most of whom don't and don't need to speak to any Facepeople while spending their money. And if you're a peon, like me, then your interface with any humanity within Facebook is much the same - for us, Facebook is Faceless.

So now, after the violence and voices of hate have made their mark, Zuckerberg is hearing from those (advertisers) who will dare stand up for the powerless. Some 1000+ (at last count) organizations who advertise there are joining Mozilla and other civil rights groups to demand some accountability and corporate responsibility from a company that's still mostly controlled by one man.

Why do we even want one man to have so much power over our lives, and so much power in general?

Why do we the people accept that our role in this is to be the product to be consumed at such a global scale?

Who will Face the Facebook?

And so these advertisers with a conscience, they pull the lever they have, which is their wallets. Then what? Where else can they allocate their million-dollar monthly ad budgets?

And this is where I segue into the Fediverse. It's where I got the inspiration to start this blog (#100DaysToOffload). It's a place for humans, by humans. Bots, identify yourselves! Pseudonyms are allowed. Individual site operators will remove spammers and set group guidelines. No single party can monopolize the federation because all it takes is one dissenter to defederate from them. No president gets to set out of touch policies that affect everyone. And it's populated by people trying to make the software of the internet better, which I plan to blog more about.

And there's no algorithm that deviously amplifies the emotions of mobs. But there's also no built-in scheme to make payola posts go viral. In fact, advertisers are almost nowhere to be found on the fediverse. Does that sound appealing to you? If you're an advertiser, maybe it sounds downright hostile, the fact that you can't force yourself on targeted demographics. How long do you think you'll get away with that?

I trust that some brands will figure out how to build fans on fedi. I'll leave the howto as an exercise for the reader.

I hope the money these companies are saving in July can find its way to organizations that don't contribute to a monoculture on the Internet.

And I believe Facebook will have to change and that it's already too late. Let's bring down the walls.