Here’s a line I never thought I’d write: Facebook is worried.
In internal discussions seen by BuzzFeed News, Facebook employees who are responsible for managing its relationship with Starbucks warned that Starbucks may remove its Facebook page after receiving loads of hateful comments. Should Starbucks go through with it, the coffee company would be one of the largest companies ever to cut ties with Facebook.
The report said the looming threat has Facebook “scrambling.”
“Starbucks is in the process of evaluating their organic presence on FB, and whether they should continue to have a presence on the platform at all,” a Facebook employee wrote last week. “Anytime they post (organically) in regards to social issues or their mission & values work (e.g. BLM, LGBTQ, sustainability/climate change, etc.) they are overwhelmed by negative/insensitive, hate speech related comments on their posts.”
“At Facebook, some who work with Starbucks’s social media team fear the company may move beyond pulling its ads and remove its page completely,” the report goes on. “According to Starbucks’s annual report, it spent more than $258 million in advertising globally last year.”
I want to go back to what I wrote last week regarding a teacher who told students that George Floyd would be alive if he had complied with police. The story can be found here. In my response to it, I discuss that multiple statements can be true at once. Things are not always right or wrong, yes or no, A or B. That’s the case here.
Starbucks opened itself up to criticism by posting about BLM, climate change, and other political views that are divisive. When a company, any company, takes a political stance, it risks alienating customers who don’t agree.
That said, while people have a right to comment and express their displeasures, there’s no excuse for hateful or threatening comments. None. Regardless of what the company posted, anyone who writes such things is wrong.
The anonymous Facebook employee quoted notes that Starbucks has struggled to moderate comments and is unable to disable comments on the page. Facebook is looking into that matter.
Starbucks’ other option is to pivot away from social and political commentary, though the company doesn’t seem to consider that an option right now.
Whatever happens, just know the tech tyrants at Facebook are scrambling.