Why 1 million People Say They’re Leaving Facebook on 13 November

Why are more than 1 million people saying they're going to leave Facebook for freedom-of-speech platform Parler on 13 November 2020? We dive into why global content censoring by social media is causing waves and whether you need to be concerned about your own content.
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Right now on Facebook, there are numerous Mass Exit Off Facebook 11/13/2020 events, amounting to more than a million attendees. Many of the events, including what is believed to be one of the original groups, are being removed, while some grow in numbers by the minute. The online event would see people leave Facebook for self-proclaimed unbiased social media platform Parler at 6:00pm GMT-8 on the 13 November 2020.

In the feeds of the pages, you can see those who have already created their profiles on Parler and support the cause. The reason for the mass-transition is said to be over the censorship of American Conservative posts on Facebook.

But what’s actually going on? We’ve done a little digging to find out why people are leaving Facebook, if Parler is the next big social platform and if what you’re seeing online is being censored. Most importantly, we find out how this impacts Australians, if at all.

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash.

Screenshot from Facebook 9 November 2020 of Mass Exit Off Facebook 11/13/20 Event

Why More Than 1 Million People Are Leaving Facebook on 13 November 2020

Facebook and other social media platforms, like Twitter, have been under fire in 2020 for censorship. Earlier this year, the censorship of COVID-19-related posts caused waves, but Facebook VP Integrity, Guy Rosen, Tweeted this was a bug in the anti-spam system.

“We’re on this — this is a bug in an anti-spam system, unrelated to any changes in our content moderator workforce. We’re in the process of fixing and bringing all these posts back. More soon.” 

However, the latest debate and declarations are heating up around content posted about the United States Presidential Elections, more specially, for the Conservative Party.

The Conservative Rally Girl Val, the page behind what is thought to be one of the original Mass Exit Off Facebook 11/13/20 events, says they have had accounts removed, believing it is unfair censorship. Val, the creator of the group, organises and runs conservative rallies, using Facebook to spread awareness of Conservative news and rallies. Her call is for other Facebook users to make the switch to an uncensored platform (Parler) so they can speak openly. 

As of midday AEST, 9 November 2020, we were unable to locate The Conservative Rally Girl Val’s Facebook page or event. 

Politics can often be a heated topic, so understandably, may actually not comply with Facebook guidelines, particularly with a call for stricter government regulation. In fact, Facebook took down posts and ads from the Trump Campaign due to violating their regulations due to ‘organized hate’.

A Facebook Post from the now missing The Conservative Rally Girl Val Facebook Page

Does Facebook censor content?

In short, yes, Facebook does censor content — but you agree to it. When you sign up for Facebook — or any app or platform for that matter — you’re agreeing to their terms and conditions. These terms and conditions try to keep the peace on their platforms and help them abide by the many laws in the country of origin, including globally if international use is available.

Facebook states on a page titled ‘What types of things aren’t allowed on Facebook‘:

To see the full list and learn more about our policies, please review the Facebook Community Standards.

If you see something on Facebook that doesn’t follow the Community Standards, please use the report links near the content.

Here are a few of the things that aren’t allowed on Facebook:

  • Nudity or other sexually suggestive content.

  • Hate speech, credible threats or direct attacks on an individual or group.

  • Content that contains self-harm or excessive violence.

  • Fake or impostor profiles.

  • Spam.

On top of this, there are also a string of community guidelines about objectionable content, violence and criminal behaviour, safety, cruel and insensitive content and more. This includes a policy rationale for Cruel and Insensitive content stating:

We believe that people share and connect more freely when they do not feel targeted based on their vulnerabilities. As such, we have higher expectations for content that we call cruel and insensitive, which we define as content that targets victims of serious physical or emotional harm.

We remove explicit attempts to mock victims and mark as cruel implicit attempts, many of which take the form of memes and GIFs.

Long story short, if your content is deemed as offensive or insensitive in pretty much anyway, it will be removed. Repeated reports of your content can lead to Facebook removing your page, groups or events entirely.

However, the governments of the world are getting more involved with online content.

Is the Government controlling what Facebook censors?

It’s common knowledge many countries, including China, have restricted access to Facebook and many other social media platforms. In March 2019, Co-Founder and CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg called for new laws in the control of harmful content, election integrity, privacy and data portability. 

Depending on the country you are in, there will be different policies in place online and on particular platforms. For example, in 2019, Facebook began labelling political ads shown on Facebook in EU countries. Users can also see who the advertiser is, how much they paid for the ad and who they are targeting with the ad. 

In March 2019, Facebook declared blocking praise, support and representation of white nationalism and separatism on the platform and Twitter. This came after questioning of misuse of social media data during election campaigns.

As of right now, governments around the world are beginning to police online content, but it’s only the beginning.

Should you be worried about Facebook censoring your content?

A majority of social media users are sharing content from their day-to-day lives, keeping in touch with friends and family, and laughing at prank and cat videos. If you’re one to be mindful of what you’re posting, sharing, reacting and commenting, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about on Facebook or any other social platform.

However, for those who are more vocal of their personal political, cultural or social beliefs, you may need to be cautious. This includes businesses. Facebook and other social media platforms are being pressed to reconsider what is free expression versus misleading or hateful content. As this happens, we may see a change to what’s on our feeds.

Localsearch’s Director of Digital & Growth, Adam Boote, says businesses should not be concerned if they’re focusing on their product, service and customer, not their personal preferences.

“Facebook is still one of the most powerful tools for Australian businesses, but it’s understandable they may be hesitant with everything in the news,” said Mr. Boote.

“But they don’t have anything to worry about as long as they leave their personal preferences to their personal page. Your business accounts should be about information relevant to what you do and what interests your audience. I can’t think of many industries which would be seen as harmful content with what they do.” 

Something for businesses owners, even employees, to remember is being cautious of what you post online where you can be linked to your business or place of work. People on social media love a good snoop, and your personal opinions reflect on the beliefs of the business. When it comes to business, you want to remain as unbiased as possible on political matters.

Is Parler the next Facebook?

For those who are interested in politics, you may remember Parler as the social media platform the Trump Campaign publicly admitted to considering switching to from Facebook and Twitter. The Trump reelection campaign came under heat when many of their ads and content were removed from platforms for breaching guidelines with hate symbols and speech.

However, with the call from major social media platforms, like Facebook, for governance of online content, Parler’s belief system may not be able to remain the same for long.

A screenshot of the Parler app.

What is Parler?

Parler launched in 2018 as a platform for free speech, according to the founder, John Matze. As of June 2020, they say they have around 1.7 million users, which is said to be double the number of users from April 2020.

Comparing the users to Facebook’s 2.7+ billion active users, they still have a very long way to go. Majority of the platform’s current users most likely came from the Trump Campaign’s admission, so the app has even further to go to reach international popularity.

Parler has 5 different types of accounts:

Verified Influencer Badge: Given to users with large followings who are at more risk of having fake accounts made imitating them. This gives users clarity on who is legitimate when engaging with public figures.

Parler Media Partner Badge: Parler Partners utilise a plug-in to help their website content, like blogs, stream with Parler. Users can then comment on the posts, which is then mirrored between the platform and the website.

Verified Real User Badge: A verified user is someone who has verified their account. It is mentioned it does not mean they are the real person, but have simply verified the account. Almost any user can verify their account, so it’s interesting this is a feature.

Parler Affiliate: Affiliates allow Parler to post articles directly from their website onto Parler. This would make it easy for Parler to make it look like users are highly engaged on their platform, even if they may not necessarily be doing so.

Private Account Badge: A private account on Parler is like any other private account where users will have to request access to follow or view the account’s content.

Does Parler censor content?

The app was created to give people a place to express their opinions without fear of censoring. Matze said there are no fact checkers and the feed uses a chronological order, instead of an algorithm. Guidelines are still being applied, but Matze said may depend on the context of the content and how it’s users. He was asked what would happen if a particular derogatory word was used and he replied to Forbes,

“It depends on the context. If they just said that word alone, I don’t think we would touch it. If somebody came on there and said [word-redacted] to somebody, and they got very upset as a result of that, then it would get taken down.”

Should you join Parler?

Online reviews for Parler right now are a bit on the fence about the platform, with a 2.8 star average star rating over 122 reviews. A majority of the reviews are around trouble verifying accounts, the need to use the CAPTCHA on every sign-in or issues with functionality. 

As a newer platform, it’s understandable there will be some bugs for them to figure out, especially as more people join. From personal experience of testing the app, logging in after creating an account was tedious and it would tell me my password was incorrect, when it was exactly what I’d set up the account with. You also need to enter a CAPTCHA and they will send you a mobile verification code.

Should you create a Parler account for your business?

Long story short, Parler may not be relevant for Australian businesses at this point in time, but you should definitely keep your eye on the platform as it evolves.

Through our research, it doesn’t appear like much of the Parler audience is Australian or engaging with businesses. Much of the conversation is politically geared, with my Partner explore page filled with posts about the US election, political matters and COVID-19, while the Affiliate page was much the same with US sports news included. 

#smallbusinesstips currently has 39 posts, #cookingtips has 37 posts and #beautytips has 38 posts. These are generally large topics on other social media platforms, but are very small with little engagement on Parler.

When asked about Parler, Adam Boote said while businesses need to be proactive at keeping on top of the latest platforms, he wouldn’t rush into this new free speech social media just yet.

“I obviously joined Parler to check it out as new tech is always something I investigate, and right now, honestly, Australia isn’t on it. But that’s not to say they won’t be,” he said.

“New platforms are always going to be a hit or miss; not even the platform itself, but sometimes for different businesses. If you’re digital savvy, I would recommend checking out the app and investigating if it’s right for what you do.” 

“Asides from being a social media platform, Google and other search engine will likely index it,” Adam said. “So, creating a profile will subsequently help your SEO.”

How to advertise on Parler.

As of 30 October 2020, you can’t advertise on Parler. However, many large corporations are looking towards what Parler has to offer as they pull their budgets from Facebook until policies around hate speech are resolved.

Australian businesses should not be taking the lead from these corporations. For anyone other than global franchises with instantly recognisable names, logos and branding, pulling advertising is not an option. 2020 has proven without good digital marketing, businesses can’t stay afloat, and with it, they can fair through almost anything. 

As for when and how businesses can advertise on Parler, here is what founder John Matze said on CNBC’s Squawk Box:

“Our business model is going to be an ad revenue model. The idea of how we’re going to do it isn’t going to be a centralized model for ads, it will be specific around influencers. So, advertisers will target influencers and those people with a large reach, rather than us as a platform,” he said.

“The idea is you boycott individual influencers whose content that you don’t like, not necessarily us as a platform.”

So, essentially, when you can advertise on Parler, you will be connecting your ads with individual influencers, not the platform. 

Adam Boote, Director of Digital & Growth at Localsearch, informed us while Parler advertising isn’t available right now, he and the team at Localsearch will be keeping an eye on its progress. 

“If Parler advertising is structured correctly and enough of the Australian audience gets on the platform, we’ll 100% be looking into it,” Adam said.

“As a full-suite digital marketing service, we’re always looking for the best tech to give to Australian businesses, so if this is good for them, we’ll ensure it’s something we can help them with. But again, it depends on what happens.”

Facebook Censorship in Australia

A new proposed regulation in Australia has caused Facebook to censor content on the platform in Australia.

The Australian Government has proposed a new code of conduct, which would force online platforms, like Facebook and Google, to pay for local news outlets. Under the ACCC code, the platforms would have to bargain with Australian news outlets and reach an agreement on what and how they would pay for their news.

In response, Australia and New Zealand Facebook Managing Director Will Eaton said,

“Assuming this draft code becomes law, we will reluctantly stop allowing publishers and people in Australia from sharing local and internal news on Facebook and Instagram.”

He also informed between January and May 2020, Australian Facebook users had clicked on shared news items on the platform 2.3 billion times, which generated $200 million in revenue for Australian media organisations. The ACCC reported Facebook does indeed pay for some news-related content.

As a result, Facebook updated their terms of service to reserve the right to restrict and/or block content, services or information which would help them avoid or mitigate adverse legal or regulatory impacts on Facebook.

Freedom of Speech on Facebook in Australia

Government involvement in Australian social media platforms will have an adverse effect on the content we see every day. In Australia, we do not have freedom of speech, but rather a Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression. While it applies to written and verbal communications, including media and advertising, and is said to not be subject to any exception or restriction, it does have responsibilities.

Long story short, “Freedom of expression may be limited as provided for by law and when necessary to protect the rights or reputation of others, national security, public order or public health or morals.” Essentially, defamation can apply.

What does the Right to Freedom of Opinion and Expression have to do with Facebook? Defamation law protects all Australians from having false or damaging statements made about them in situations it may cause harm to their personal or professional reputation. This applies online, including on social media. 

With the Australian Government changing defamation laws in Australia, with one of the agendas to be enforced upon online channels and social media platforms, the way we use social media will change as years go on. If you have a business, these will impact you and the way you advertise. To stay in the loop, subscribe to the Localsearch Digital Marketing Newsletter as one source of information.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is for informational purposes only and does not replace professional or legal advice. Localsearch nor the author are responsible for misuse or misrepresentation of any information.

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