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Luther fights racial discrimination by severely cutting back on Facebook

Citing solidarity with marginalized communities, Martin Luther University College announces today — the annual United Nations International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination — it will continue to severely cut back its use of Facebook. 

“As an educational institution dedicated to promoting social justice, Luther makes efforts to live by its values,” said Rev. Dr. Kristine Lund, the school’s principal-dean. “Online racism, hate and misinformation is having a corrosive effect on our society and we have an obligation to limit our support of actors, such as Facebook, that have not done enough to limit negative content on its platform.” 

To mark the UN’s anti-racism observance, Luther’s Open Door gathering on Wednesday will feature a talk by Jean Augustine who, in 1993, was the first African-Canadian woman elected as member of Parliament. Augustine is scheduled to deliver her talk via Zoom. The gathering runs 5-5:50 p.m. The public is invited to participate in person or via Zoom at this link. Before arriving on campus, at the corner of Albert Street and Bricker Avenue in Waterloo, visitors must complete and submit the online screening form. 

Luther’s pivot to severely limit its participation on Facebook is a response to a call by a coalition of U.S.-based social-justice groups, in 2020, for corporations to pause advertising on Facebook for the month of July. Luther immediately cut its small advertising spend on Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram, and explored alternative platforms. After conducting a six-month pilot project to shift most of its content to the Flickr platform, the school’s management team decided to continue its practice of severely limiting participation on Facebook. 

Data analytics suggest the move has been largely positive: Fourteen months after launching its pilot project, views of Luther’s content on Flickr are roughly equal to the typical number of views for the school’s content posted previously on Facebook. However, engagement on Flickr remains low so Luther is encouraging its community members to engage on Flickr. 

“It’s a perfect time to visit us on Flickr,” Lund said. “We are hosting an art exhibition called Unmasking, Breathing, Moving Forward. It features nearly two dozen works by artists from Indigenous and other racialized communities.” 

View the exhibition on Flickr. To ‘like’ an image or leave a comment for an artist, simply sign up for a free Flickr account. Or go to the Kanata Centre for Worship and Global Song web page for details on viewing the exhibition in person. 

The school continues to use Facebook to communicate with several student groups. For example, Luther shares weekly reminders about its free food distribution service, a partnership with Laurier Students’ Public Research Interest Group (LSPIRG). 

John Milloy, director of the school’s Centre for Public Ethics, said people who continue to use Facebook should not feel guilty about using the platform. 

“If you’re still using Facebook, you’re not evil,” Milloy said.  

“But Facebook has an outsized effect on our societies,” he added. “So, it needs to spend more of its considerable profits to rein in the spread of racism, misinformation and disinformation on its platform. 

“In a society, we have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in ways that respect each other. Facebook needs to be a much-better corporate citizen.” 

Read more on Luther’s Facebook pivot rationale. 

Learn more on Luther’s Facebook pivot background and timeline. 


Media inquiries 

Mirko Petricevic  

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