A few days ago, I set up a page for donations to the 501c3 not-for-profit I run, SustainableMedia.Center. Getting it posted was easy, and I thought some of my Facebook friends might chip in and support the organization. It started out great, and the donations began to roll in. I was impressed.
Then Facebook pinged me and suggested I could improve my results with some paid promotion. Sure, why not. I put in $90 and set it running.
This is what the ad looked like:
The results were shocking, heartbreaking, and disastrous. Almost from the moment the ad began, the torrent of hate began flowing in.
Walter Reinhardt wrote first: “F*CK OFF,” he said.
And that was just the beginning. It snowballed from there.
“Get the f*ck out of here with your bullsh*t scam,’” wrote Alex Casey.
“If you think you’re gonna get donations on Facebook, you’re dumber than sh*t,” wrote Ellen Velott Long.
And Martin Johnson got right to the point “Lying media is the problem.”
It seems that my company was targeted simply for being tagged as “media.” The rage continued:
“LIBERAL media IS FAKE AND CORRUPT TO BOOT …together?? you pedo friendly liberals don’t know the meaning of that word,” wrote Baranda Gary.
There were 527 reactions. 94 written comments and memes.
“So, i see Facebook is still letting Liberal Left Trump hating child predator’s advertise,” wrote Charlie DeYoung.
“All propagandists,” wrote Brad Barber.
Do you think these words from the ad are driven to trigger a political response? “Media is the center of young people’s lives. They’ve got the power to make media better. Together we’re building a sustainable media future.”
Pete Smith might have explained it when he commented: “‘sustainable’….key alert word for bs.”
But the tenor of the anger was clear:
“Since when is the media the center of young people’s lives? The media is nothing more than a left-wing propaganda machine and you know it,” wrote William Sparrow.
David Perkins wrote; “Yet another ‘woke’ scam!”
“They shouldn’t let children online It ruins their pure innocence,” wrote Ivy Marie.
The donations stopped. The hate rolled in. There wasn’t a single positive comment. Facebook reported 2,849 People Reached, 542 Post Engagements.
I have two questions, first for Facebook: Why? Why do you allow hate, obscenity, pornography, and curse words into the comment stream? This isn’t a “free speech” issue. This is a paid advertisement. Certainly, an algorithm could filter responses — but Facebook doesn’t offer that feature.
Who’s benefiting from this parade of hate? Is this feedback? Is it freedom, or is it amplified anger — and for whose sake?
But also, the comments made one thing very clear. These Facebook users, who pay nothing for the service and are the PRODUCT that Facebook sells to advertisers, had no idea that they didn’t have any rights or control over what advertisements appear in their feed.
Cathy Peterson wrote: “F*ck off. My newsfeed is reserved for friends and family. It is not an advertising platform that will earn you my patronage.”
And Jimmy Humphrey seemed both passionate and perplexed by the whole thing. He wrote: “I have not received a ‘friend’ request from you, yet here you are posting your ‘spam’ on my feed. I find this to be unacceptable behavior on your part and thusly have reported it as “spam” to the administrators! These kind of unsolicited posts are the equivalent of phone robo-callers!”
Facebook claims to be concerned about balancing free speech with critics who question their ‘hate for profit’ motivations. But in this experience, the answer became painfully clear. Facebook reached 2,849 people with my ad, and charged me thirty-three cents for each “exposure.” We received two donations, totaling $130. That’s the math. Is Facebook’s audience all haters? I can’t imagine it is. But by allowing hate to flourish on the platform, the company creates an environment that makes it impossible for reasonable connection to take place.
It’s hate for profit, and it has to stop. Giving advertisers tools to moderate comments and block hate would be a good start.