Imagine the look of terror on my face as we’re driving south from a business trip and I receive a text message informing me that Facebook and Instagram are down. No one could access the Women AdvaNCe Facebook or Instagram pages for most of the day. Our organizational website was still working, but largely, we rely on social media to share our content from our website. We were concerned because we had a big week planned promoting The NC Family Care Coalition’s Paid Family Leave Town Hall with Congresswoman, Alma Adams.
The app that many nonprofit storytelling and news sources use to “publish” went down for about six hours on Monday, but at the time we panicked because we thought it could be down for a long period of time due to hacking or something else.
On Sunday night, 60 Minutes posted an interview with Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen. The former product manager at Facebook released thousands of pages of internal documents. Then she leaked information from the Wall Street Journal’s bombshell investigation into Facebook and filed complaints to the Securities and Exchange Commission. She says she lost a close friend to hate speech that was fueled by misinformation on social media.
Reports such as this one from Pew Research makes it clear that most adults get their news largely from social media platforms. I publish a small town newspaper and often tell audiences that competition isn’t another news source, it’s Facebook.
The July 2021 report says, “About one-in-five (18 percent) said they mostly use social media to stay current. That’s close to the percentages of those who say they use local TV (16 percent) or cable TV (16 percent) news, but fewer than those who say they go directly to a news website or app (25 percent). Another 13 percent said they use network TV and only 3 percent said they read a newspaper.”
When my Facebook account was hacked a few years ago, I went without it for around two days. The lessons I learned came back to me during yesterday’s social media crisis. Facebook is a fun place for me…but it’s not where I get the news. And if you are relying solely on social media to stay informed when it comes to local news, you can expect misinformation. Files released by Haugen say that algorithms seek to profit from division. They, like many media sources, believe negativity sells papers and drives advertising.
After more than 20 years in the news business, I have seen how those practices creep into newsroom content and what reporters are expected to produce in order to feed the ugly side of social media. What was exposed on 60 Minutes was not a shock to most of us in the media world.
Now in case you haven’t noticed, Women AdvaNCe has a progressive lens when it comes to reproductive justice, education, voter rights, justice reform and the health and safety of women.
We’re a small but mighty team of freelancers and while we don’t cover everything in the news, we cover what we think is important to North Carolina women. Our goal is to help bring news stories to real life through our Writers Collective, a group of storytellers whose voices can be heard through our Missing and Murder Indigenous Women collaboratives, congressional legislation, town halls, meetings with local women, the NC Families Care Coalition, public broadcasting, and Black Breastfeeding Week panels. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter have proven to be the best tools to communicate. It has become even more important during the COVID-19 crisis.
So we aren’t leaving Facebook any time soon. But if you are…we will meet you here weekly and don’t forget to check out our website each day for updates!