Facebook Announces New Rule Hurting Climate Activists

(PresidentialHill.com)- Facebook changed some rules regarding advertising on its platform last month. And while these changes were designed to respond to online abuse concerns, many climate groups are now saying they have been limited in their ability to connect with certain companies.

The climate groups are also saying fossil fuel companies now have an unfair advantage in reaching people on social media platforms.

Spake Media House’s digital director, Nathanael Baker, recently said of Facebook:

“They’ve pretty much stripped out any kind of climate targeting. We used to be able to find people who are interested in environmental protection and environmentalism — those [options] have evaporated.”

The new rule removed certain categories from Facebook’s Detailed Targeting advertising tool. They basically stripped this option for “topics people may perceive as sensitive.”

In other words, advertisers aren’t able to target users based on specific interests they have in organizations or causes that are related to “health, race or ethnicity, political affiliation, religion or sexual orientation.”

In the past, some groups would use the tool to market military gear to people who belonged to far-right extremist groups, or to exclude certain groups of minorities from seeing ads for real estate.

The idea behind the change was a noble one, but climate groups are saying that it’s hurting them significantly.

Advertisers are able to find audiences who may be receptive to their message by targeting people who engage with either products, companies or organizations that are similar to theirs.

Baker, for one, said he would then target other non-profit groups focused on the environment such as the Nature Conservancy and the World Wildlife Fund. The group also utilized tools that would allow them to exclude people who were not likely to agree with the messages they are speaking about.

But, Facebook’s new rules don’t make that possible anymore. As Baker said:

“We can’t connect with people who are into the big [environmental] brands, so it’s creating a place where the climate movement — because it doesn’t have corporate brands — is getting hindered. Your message is also now blending in a much bigger pool that can own it and change it and make it a hornet’s nest.”

Other climate change groups say it’s becoming tougher for them to tailor the messages they send out as well. Jon Oaksut, who researches climate change at Yale University, said this is because people who are engrossed with climate change aren’t a monolith. As he said:

“That means that there’s more than one message that needs to be told. And [climate groups are] losing the ability to talk or to listen to these audiences individually through Facebook.”

The frustrating part to these climate change groups is that large fossil fuel companies are able to get around the new Facebook rules.

Cristian Sanchez, who serves as the deputy data director for the Digital Climate Coalition, explained:

“You can still target Shell and Chevron, but I can’t target Sierra Club and NRDC [the National Resources Defense Coucil].”