One Richmond MLA is boycotting Facebook in July to protest how the social media giant handles misinformation and hate speech, but he has also paid for advertising in the conservative Christian Light Magazine.
Richmond-Queensborough MLA Jas Johal’s constituency office expenses show an invoice for $1,428 from Light Christian Media that publishes the magazine, dated November 2019. Johal explained it was for an ad to wish the Christian community merry Christmas, but he wasn’t aware of the contents of the magazine. Furthermore, the ad was split among more than a dozen MLAs and his portion was about $100, he added.
Johal pointed out he advertises in many publications and to different ethnic and cultural groups.
The bill was part of the 2019 fourth quarter constituency office expense reports. There are receipts for other publications including the Richmond News, Sing Tao and the Jewish Independent.
The magazine is known as a fundamentalist Christian publication and its articles include a piece by Laura-Lynne Tyler Thompson who writes against Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) policies and another questioning how a bill against conversion therapy will affect pastoring (at lightmagazine.ca).
Johal said homophobic values are against his values and he shows this by, for example, attending pride parades in Vancouver and Victoria.
“They (the magazine) don’t reflect my values, they don’t reflect the (BC Liberal) leader’s values, they don’t reflect the party’s values,” he said.
In fact, he added, he has taken a stand as an MLA against hate by joining the #StopHateForProfit campaign, boycotting Facebook for the month of July.
Johal said the social media platform, that generated $69 billion in 2019, has not done enough to “combat racist, false and dangerous content” nor has it been effective in getting white supremacists off its platform.
“Today I join like-minded individuals, organizations, and businesses in asking Facebook and all major social media sites to strengthen their content moderation policies and rigorously enforce them,” he wrote in a message on the social media platform.
His constituency office will not be advertising on the platform for the month of July as part of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, something that is being done by more than 100 other advertisers, for example, Ford, Adidas and North Face.
On average, Johal said his office spends $500 to $600 per month on Facebook ads to reach both English and Chinese speaking audiences.
As a former journalist having worked in the industry for 23 years, Johal said he supports free speech, but more needs to be done when a platform is “used to promote racism, antisemitism, and violence.”
He won’t be posting on Twitter or Instagram either during the month of July.
“We need to clean up our digital and social media ecosystem, and it can't happen until we all do our part,” he added. “I do not believe my actions alone will change the world, but I do believe if we all collectively try, change will come.”
The Stop Hate for Profit campaign was started by six American organizations including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Free Press, demanding Facebook take measures to combat hate speech on their platform.
They are calling for Facebook to have independent audits of identity-based hate and misinformation, to remove private groups focused on hate, for example, white supremacy, to create mechanisms to flag hateful content and to have a live employee to deal with those facing hate on Facebook.