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Province Joins Facebook Ad Boycott

NEW YORK — In an effort to encourage Facebook, Inc., to take action against the spread of racist, violent, and hate speech on its platforms, Holy Name Province has joined the hundreds of businesses and nonprofits that have ceased advertising on Facebook, Inc., platforms for the month of July.

The Province released the following statement on June 29 showing its support for this measure:

As Franciscans, we denounce racism, violence, and hate speech in all its forms. We join with those who are calling for Facebook, Inc., to take stronger action and enact policies that will stop the spread of racism, violence, and hate speech on its platforms.

For the month of July, the Franciscan Friars of Holy Name Province – including the Franciscan Vocation Ministry, FriarWorks, and St. Anthony’s Guild – will pause all paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram. In doing so, we hope to encourage Facebook, Inc., to consider how it can best use its platform to heal divisions and create a more just and peaceful world.

The Province has joined other organizations in choosing not to advertise on Facebook during the month of July. (Graphic courtesy of Wikipedia)

The statement was posted on the four Facebook pages run by the communications, development, and vocation offices, as well as the Instagram account run by the HNP Vocation Office. Collectively, the Province has more than 43,500 followers across its social media accounts.

Facebook owns the world’s largest social media platform, with more than 2.6 billion monthly active users. Among its other properties are Whatsapp, which has 2 billion monthly active users, and Instagram, which boasts more than 1 billion monthly active users. As its platforms have grown, Facebook, Inc., has struggled to address the growing amount of violent and graphic content posted on its sites, and the fact that content has inspired violent acts being committed offline. A nationwide survey conducted by Pew Research Center in 2017 found that 41 percent of Americans have been harassed online, and 66 percent have witnessed others being harassed online.

Facebook’s internal research found that 64 percent of people who joined extremist groups did so via a recommendation from Facebook’s algorithm, which controls the content that people see on the site. An internal presentation from Facebook in 2018 stated that “if left unchecked” the platform would push “more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention and increase time on the platform,” according to an investigation by The Wall Street Journal.

This image — with part of a prayer popularly attributed to St. Francis of Assisi – was posted on Facebook with the Province’s statement on June 29. (Graphic courtesy of Jorge Martins)

“Franciscans are called to be peacemakers – to ‘heal wounds, to bind what is broken, and to bring home those who are lost,’” said David Convertino, OFM, executive director of development who worked on the statement with Maria Hayes, director of marketing, Jocelyn Thomas, director of communications, Basil Valente, OFM, vocation director, and Jorge Martins, vocation office administrator.  “By joining with the hundreds of other nonprofits and businesses that are putting their Facebook, Inc., advertising strategies on hold, we ask Facebook, Inc., to revise its community guidelines to focus on building peaceful communities that recognize and honor the dignity of each of its members.”

“As Franciscans, we try our best to follow in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi by working for justice and peace, and supporting the dignity and worth of every individual, especially the poor and the marginalized,” said Basil. “Our statement is but one way to address those important values.”

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