A Plea to Facebook – Stop Silencing Charities and Political Activists

facebook-dislike-button-650x3901Go to login to Facebook or create an account and you’ll see a statement on the right that the social networking site is free and always will be. What Facebook has neglected to tell users is that free doesn’t mean there’s a guarantee that what you post (either as an individual uploading a picture of your dinner or a website like our own posting an article) will be seen by anybody, or that Facebook will protect anything you share from being seen by the wrong people. In fact, according to a study quoted by Naked Security (a news, opinion and research website run by Sophos Security), over 48% of people polled who had deleted their Facebook accounts had done so over privacy concerns. Mark Zuckerberg’s company has had running issues with privacy, losing younger subscribers, and now another issue has arisen which has throttled Facebook pages.

Over the past couple of weeks, pages like Forward Progressives and others have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of people who have seen their status updates, links or images even though there hasn’t been any significant change in the subscribers who follow those same pages. At the same time, Facebook has also added new, lower tiers in pricing for “boosting” the audience who could theoretically see what your business posts even though there is no guarantee of any actual increase in reader engagement or attracting new followers. In fact, blogger Allen Underwood found that paying Facebook to increase exposure for his page was a complete waste of $15, literally getting only 1.6% of the “seen by” that Facebook advertised in exchange for his hard-earned cash. By only offering the option of “boosting” posts on a case by case basis, it really reinforces the long-held belief by many people (myself included) that Facebook doesn’t give a shit about their users, especially when it comes to businesses. Their mentality has boiled down to this: “So you have 100,000 fans? Great, we’ll let maybe 5% of them see what you post and you’ll thank us for that. Want more than that? You’ll have to pay, we won’t guarantee additional views and we don’t care if you’re a business or a charity. Don’t like it? We don’t care. Have a problem with your account such as massive false reporting? Guess you better un-publish that page until the attacks go away because we won’t do anything about it and you have nobody to appeal your suspension to.”

Prior to Facebook being a publicly traded company, they were seemingly content to make money from advertising. Now with demands from shareholders for ever-increasing dividends, Facebook has tried to find new ways to squeeze money out of subscribers at every twist and turn. This latest throttling of page views is what can only be seen as yet another attempt to force businesses to pay for using their services – which was confirmed in a new sales deck from Facebook’s advertising department in which they openly admit, “We expect organic distribution of an individual page’s posts to gradually decline over time as we continually work to make sure people have a meaningful experience on the site.”

As a writer who makes a very small sum of money monthly for what I do, I don’t have a problem paying a nominal fee for using a service that got my message out to everyone who is interested in what I have to say – if it actually worked. Facebook and other social media sites have been a great way for many political activists around the world to connect and spread their message over the last few years. It is quite possible that the Arab Spring would not have come about – or at least not been successful in places like Egypt – had it not been for sites like Facebook or Twitter. Some organizations cannot pay the exorbitant amounts requested in exchange for possibly letting more than 5 or 10 percent of all followers see an important message. What if only 10% of the actual crowd in Tahrir Square had shown up because the organizers couldn’t afford to pay Zuckerberg his “pound of flesh”?

I honestly believe that if Facebook would continue to take advertising dollars and let companies have the ability to let all of their followers see what they post for a small monthly or annual fee per page, Facebook could grow their profits, which would please shareholders. It would also get rid of many scam pages which seem to be a dime a dozen right now and it would allow the service to continue to be free for individual users who are also frustrated that they aren’t seeing all updates from their favorite artists and writers.

In a nutshell, Facebook has made it nearly impossible for political and activist pages to connect with their audiences. Currently, only a mere fraction of a page’s followers will see any given post in their news feed due to Facebook’s algorithms and paying Facebook to boost posts is an expense activists often cannot afford.

I am suggesting that Facebook review their policies and stop hiding Facebook page updates from their fans. I’d also suggest that they consider implementing a monthly or annual subscription fee for large pages such as those owned by for-profit businesses and celebrities. This will allow Facebook to continue to be profitable while not silencing the voices of political activists, charities, and non-profit organizations. If you agree, please consider signing the petition I started to try to spread awareness on this issue and urge action to fix it.


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