Celebrities Plan an ‘Instagram Freeze,’ but Reaction Is Icy


BERKELEY, Calif. — One by one, celebrities came forward this week to say they were sick of the misinformation and hate speech on Instagram and its parent company, Facebook. Many of them — Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry, Leonardo DiCaprio — have tens of millions of followers on social media.

Then the stars went further. They were not just speaking up to protest Facebook, they said, but would take action, too. On Wednesday, they said, they would freeze their Instagram accounts for 24 hours and not post anything on the photo-sharing site as a kind of moratorium against Facebook.

But the move, which the celebrities made in concert with the Stop Hate for Profit Campaign, a coalition of civil rights organizations that had organized an ad boycott of Facebook in July, quickly became fodder for online criticism. On Twitter, people called the celebrity Instagram freeze a stunt. “Oh god what a sacrifice” to stop posting for a day, one user wrote. Another posted an eyeroll-like emoji and said, “Way to take a risk people.”

The reaction resembled the griping over how #BlackoutTuesday, an Instagram trend meant to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement by posting images of black boxes, was an ineffective performative gesture rather than a substantive action.

The freeze “is designed to keep up the pressure,” Mr. Steyer said. Of Facebook and Instagram, he added, “they are by far the worst platforms in terms of amplifying hate speech, amplifying racist messages and undermining democracy.”

Mr. Steyer said he expected more celebrities, as well as groups and individuals, to hop on board the Instagram freeze as the campaign spreads.

A Facebook spokesman declined to comment.

The freeze effort began on Monday, when celebrities including Mr. Baron Cohen and Mark Ruffalo posted that they were part of the campaign.

On Tuesday, Ms. Kardashian West joined in.

“I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation — created by groups to sow division and split America apart — only to take steps after people are killed,” she tweeted to her 66.7 million followers, urging them to also freeze their Instagram and Facebook accounts.

In total, the campaign said at least 14 celebrities were taking part in the social media effort, including Jennifer Lawrence, Mr. Ruffalo and Kerry Washington.

Despite the backlash, some people were emboldened by the stars’ announcements. “I’m in!!” one user tweeted in response to Mr. Baron Cohen. “Facebook is destroying minds, friendships, families, businesses. The false information that is being believed by previously rational people is destructive beyond belief. It has to stop.”

But much of the rest of the reaction was divisive. “If you do not want to support @Facebook and its subsidiaries you just have to stop using them, full stop,” one Twitter user wrote to Ms. Kardashian West.

Mr. Steyer said the Stop Hate for Profit campaign was also aimed at Facebook employees to encourage them to raise the alarm about the company’s procedures.

“You’re starting to see employees of Facebook speaking out and whistle-blowers within the company,” he said. “You want to look back at your career and say ‘I helped undermine American democracy?’ I hope not.”





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