The below was originally posted to Newport Rising's Facebook page on April 29th 2022. We have re-posted here with edits for clarity.
We have decided to suspend all activity on Facebook. This is why.
The short(ish) version:
We believe that the Chartists’ fight for the right to vote and the Newport Rising of 1839 have an importance far beyond their historical interest. We believe that the lessons of the Chartists remain vital today. They remind us that the right to vote was not won easily, and that the fight for democracy did not end in 1839, or when universal suffrage was eventually granted in 1928. Democracy is an active, participatory right that must be defended, even today.
That’s why we have decided that it is impossible for us to remain on a platform that is effectively working to undermine democracy - not just in the UK, but across the world. This isn’t an easy choice to make, as we’ve worked hard to build an audience here, and despite the serious problems we see with the way that Facebook operates, it is still an affordable and often effective way for us and other grassroots organisations to reach our communities.
So why leave Facebook?
- Facebook has a big problem with fake news and disinformation that the platform refuses to adequately address.
- The ways in which Facebook’s platform is structured are not conducive to polite, respectful conversation around topics that are essential for good community and understanding of one another. Extreme voices are amplified, presenting the idea that you are either for or against one view or another. Moderate voices are sidelined or hidden, while the most inflammatory are boosted and shared. How and why any voices are promoted is decided by Facebook's algorithm and can be changed at any time.
- Facebook shapes and restricts how and who we speak to online and does so in ways that are not transparent or honest. Facebook’s algorithms choose who and what you see, but this separation is not made clear and stifles conversation in ways that are detrimental to us as individuals and to society as a whole. For example, news feeds make it impossible for anyone to know what content others are seeing, which is further hampered by Facebook’s closed system and refusal to release data to independent researchers.
- Fringe opinions can be given false consensus via bots, paid accounts and coordinated attacks. Insincere groups are able to promote negative or unsupported health messages and propagate misleading or outright falsehoods around vaccine safety, leading to real harm.
- The techniques that Facebook uses to keep us coming back and to hold that attention deliberately utilise mechanisms that work in ways similar to addiction. Increased social media use has been linked to increased incidence of depression and anxiety https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4183915/.
- Facebook is able to silence dissenting voices; critics of Facebook can be shut down without recourse or appeal. In fact, you might not even be able to tell that you are being silenced. That includes this very post, which may contradict Facebook terms and could be removed.
- Facebook repeatedly fails or is slow to remove racist, homophobic or other forms of hate speech.
The above points aren’t just abstract, academic concerns. They have real world consequences. Mark Zuckerberg/Facebook/Meta has been repeatedly slow or reluctant to take the necessary measures to improve the platform, instead choosing profit, propaganda and manipulation over social good.
Leaving Facebook (and Instagram) will hurt us, but we hope you’ll follow us to greener pastures. Our original intention was to grow our presence on Twitter, but recent privatisation and purchase by billionaire Elon Musk does not bode well for that platform either. Instead, we’ll increase our use of our e-mailing list here (sign up here: https://www.newportrising.co.uk/mailinglist) and work to update our website www.newportrising.co.uk and other channels more often. Our partners at the Westgate Hotel and others may share information and updates about future Newport Rising events on their pages, but this should not be taken as our support for the Facebook platform.
We might return if measures are taken to improve Facebook, such as better independent oversight of political advertising, increased open access for independent researchers to Facebook's data and cooperation with the UK government and a commitment to act in good faith. We aren't optimistic that these exchanges are likely to come soon, however.
Our page is probably small enough to fly under Facebook’s radar but it’s possible that Facebook will remove this post or block our account. Ultimately we just don’t know, which is part of the problem.
This post will remain pinned to our home page and comments will be open, but no further content will be posted for the foreseeable. Finally, thanks for your support over the last few years. Please do keep following us and consider signing up for our mailing list as we’ve got lots planned for this year and will have some good news about this year's festival that's about to drop.
Link to the mailing list again: www.newportrising.co.uk/mailinglist