This is not the way Facebook would have wanted to head into 2019.
This week, the NAACP, which has more than 500,000 members across the US, has called on its members to log out of both Facebook and Instagram for a week to protest against the way in which the platform was used to suppress African-American turnout in the 2016 election.
NAACP has returned a monetary donation we recently received from Facebook, and we are calling on supporters to log out of Facebook and Instagram on Tuesday, December 18. We implore you, our partners, friends, and supporters to join us. #LogOutFacebook pic.twitter.com/tOBKhnbRTW— NAACP (@NAACP) December 17, 2018
As reported by The Hill:
"The NAACP said it would lead a protest starting Tuesday that encouraged individuals to log out of Facebook and Instagram for one week as "a way to signify to Facebook that the data and privacy of its users of color matter more than its corporate interests."
As noted in the NAACP's tweet, the organization has also returned a donation Facebook recently made to it, though it did not disclose the amount of that contribution.
The action in itself is obviously significant, but the extended implications could have wider-ranging impacts for The Social Network, particularly if other groups follow suit. Already, there's a broader sense of a shift against Facebook, driven by repeated concerns about data security and the misuse of private information for business gain. Facebook's been working to counter those narratives all year, but various high profile users and groups have continued to voice their concerns, and their opposition to the company's processes in this regard.
Indeed, this week, well-known tech journalist Walt Mossberg also announced that he has made a personal decision to quit Facebook.
1/ Some personal news: I've decided to quit Facebook around the end of the year. I am doing this - after being on Facebook for nearly 12 years - because my own values and the policies and actions of Facebook have diverged to the point where I’m no longer comfortable there.— Walt Mossberg (@waltmossberg) December 17, 2018
On a comparative scale, both the NAACP action and Mossberg's decision are not likely to impact Facebook usage in a major way, with platform MAU count still above two billion. But such actions could hint at a broader shift - already, Facebook usage is declining in Europe, and has largely flattened in the US.
That's not to say its panic stations quite yet, but if Facebook were hoping for a less eventful 2019, the signs are not good. It's something to monitor, to keep an eye on at this stage, but such actions could potentially be the start of a broader anti-Facebook shift.
Definitely a point of interest, and an element to keep tabs on heading into the new year.
UPDATE (12/18): Facebook has published a new blog post outlining the details of its 'Civil Rights Audit'. In the post, Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg says that the platform 'needs to do more' and that addressing the concerns raised by the NAACP will be one of her top priorities for 2019.