At New West KnifeWorks we strive to be good members of the community. We love Jackson Hole, Park City, Napa Valley, our customers, and our country. For this reason, we have decided to suspend advertising on Facebook for the month of July. We want Facebook to be better, more responsible members of the American community.
It’s July 4th weekend—a time when we reflect on the best ideals of America - how we have succeeded and where we have more work to do to live up to those high aims.
There is still much work to do. There are great challenges before us, challenges that we can certainly overcome if we stand together as a people. We need to reject those forces and pressures that seek to divide us.
We call upon Facebook to stop incentivizing the division of the American people. We ask them to reassess a business model that profits from the breakdown of American society. In solidarity with other businesses like Patagonia, the North Face, and PepsiCo we are suspending advertising with Facebook for the month of July (and maybe longer!) to encourage them to reexamine their policies and take responsibility for the way they disseminate information.
So, in the spirit of ‘76, we lay forth the causes which impel us to Declare our Independence from Facebook Advertising.
We all thought when the computers came to take over the world, they would look like Arnold Schwarzenager in The Terminator. Nope. The Artificial “Intelligence” that is unraveling society isn’t a big, scary robot at all. It’s a tiny little bit of computer code at Facebook that decides what information is “relevant”. It then, promotes this “relevant” information into people’s news feeds.
Now, why is Facebook interested in finding this “relevant” information? Because it wants to keep all of us hooked on Facebook longer, so it can show us more Ads, so it can make more money. That all sounds fine and a part of the American way. The problem is with what Facebook’s algorithm decides is relevant. People in Silicon Valley are SMART. Facebook employs neuroscientists and behavioral psychologists to optimize engagement. It turns out that the most engaging content, the stuff that keeps us coming back to read more: ARE THE WORST IDEAS AND LOWEST EMOTIONS that lurk around in the dark recesses of all of our hearts and minds. So, the algorithm over there has figured out, unintentionally or not, that the best thing to increase engagement is endless CONFLICT. (Well, that and kittens, of course.) Mark Zuckerberg claims that Facebook is just a mirror that reflects back to us the conflict that is already there. But we believe that Facebook CREATES conflict, throwing kerosene on the smoldering embers. So, we’re pulling our advertising to encourage Facebook to stop feeding the flames.
Facebook wants us to believe that they are just a “neutral platform”, that they’re not a “news organization.” Why do they want that? Because the NY Times, Fox, Wall Street Journal, CNN—all of these organizations that are vilified as “fake news” these days, they actually have standards they have to abide by. At the very least, they have to be concerned with liability. Of course, we all prefer our political “brands” and assume those we don’t like are peddling their own angle—BUT the reality is, they have to keep the crazy within certain limits. Why? Because they can be sued. As much as we like to cast aspersions on Fox or the NY Times (depending on our leanings) both organizations have to behave within certain constraints because they can theoretically be held liable for defamation. Now, if someone posts some hateful lies on their own page and Facebook LEAVES IT THERE, they could claim to be operating like an “impartial platform” or “open forum.” However, as soon as the algorithm decides that post is “relevant” and starts PROMOTING it to other people’s “news feeds” it really is behaving like any other publishing company, and should take responsibility for what it is promoting. Even if it affects Facebook’s bottom line. Facebook is the one calling it a “news feed”-- which means they need to take responsibility as a publisher.
We don’t believe Facebook cares about “free speech.” At New West KnifeWorks, we know this from first-hand experience. We began using Facebook’s incredibly effective advertising tools in 2008—and at first, we were in love. We could show ads of our beautiful knives to people who liked cooking magazines in which our knives were featured. We poured money into it and it became an integral part of our advertising campaign. Then, one day, we received a message that our ads were not approved because they contained “weapons.” After several years taking our money, Facebook suddenly decided that “kitchen knives” were “weapons.” They sabotaged our marketing strategy overnight with no warning, no real explanation, and no real process of appealing their decision. Does that reflect a serious concern about “Free Speech” and the 1st Amendment? Several years later, Facebook changed its policy about kitchen knives, and began advertising with them again… but the experience showed us how autocratic the platform can be WHEN IT WANTS TO.
Democracy doesn’t work without transparency. Unfortunately, in America today, dollars spent count more than votes. The Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizen’s United Case unleashed a flood of unaccountable money on our elections. This Dark Money plus Facebook’s power of targeting and lack of transparency is a real threat to our democratic process. We feel it would be better if Facebook followed Twitter’s lead and banned political advertising on the platform altogether. Let the American electorate decide who is president. We don’t need shady actors paying people with PhDs in data analysis to target the exact 10,000 people needed to swing a vote, with misleading political ads filled with false information that disappear forever once the damage is done with no accountability.
We want to love Facebook again- that’s why we’re participating in this boycott, to encourage them to reevaluate their model and take responsibility for the vast forces they unleash on society.
The good news is Facebook has already begun to take baby steps in the right direction. We want them to go further.