CYA descend on Facebook offices today to demand protection against disability hate

Young disabled activists from Coventry take their fight against Facebook to the social media giant’s London offices today to force the company to listen to their demands.

The demonstration comes as figures out this month show a 52 per cent increase in disability hate crime online, mostly committed by repeat offenders.*

The group says Facebook is failing to protect disabled people from abuse and discrimination. Comments including “he’d be better off dead” can be reported but are frequently left untouched by moderators.

The action comes two days after Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen told Parliament’s joint committee for the draft online safety bill that Facebook is “unquestionably making hate worse”, while the company reported that its quarterly profits have topped $9 billion.

A cardboard placard reads Words are not temporary
A cardboard placard reads “Words are not temporary”

Dressed as characters from the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party, the full coach of activists and supporters, with and without disabilities, will meet yet more allies in London at a top secret location before descending on Facebook offices in their hundreds at high noon.

This David and Goliath story has been raging since March when Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) first launched their ‘Facebook Has No Standards’ campaign.

A photo montage showing different quotes about the negative power of Facebook on vulnerable and disabled people
We’re supporting #FacebookHasNoStandards by @CovActivists

They immediately began targeting former Deputy PM and now Facebook VP of Global Affairs Nick Clegg publicly with humorous, attention-grabbing tweets – including one where they set their own date to meet for which Nick will now be late… late for a very important date!

CYA have garnered wide-ranging national and international support from fellow disabled activists, Facebook transparency campaigners and celebrities such as actor Sally Phillips who said of educating others around disability: “We need to keep reiterating the message that it’s not OK not to include people just because it might be a bit harder.”

A CYA ally holds a cardboard placard about Facebook's disrimination of disabled people on the coach heading for their offices in London
Members of CYA, their allies and supporters – with and without disabilities – head down to London by coach today to Facebook offices

CYA even met with Facebook representatives and Taiwo Owatemi MP, who is supporting their campaign, in May but have since received no response in spite of 18 tweets to Nick Clegg and two further emails.

Taiwo Owatemi, MP for Coventry North West, said: “Tech giants can and must do more to protect the rights of their users to feel safe, both online and in their everyday lives, and their users’ free expression should not mean that they are free from consequences of their actions.”

CYA will lay out a full tea party set up on the street on 27 October and hand deliver a tea tray with their top three demands to Facebook’s front desk, remaining outside in their highly visible protest for as long as they are able.

Their top three demands are:

  1. Take down ableist comments and posts and stop allowing ableist slurs online.
  2. Change Facebook policy to cover over reported posts and comments while they are being investigated.
  3. A member of CYA to be on Facebook’s Oversight Board.

Actors from the Open Theatre Company, who collaborate with young people with learning disabilities, will play the Mad Hatter and White Rabbit and interact with crowds.

And ‘Nick Clegg’ may even put in an appearance in the form of a disabled BBC One and Channel 4 actor.

People are also being asked to ‘Sip in Solidarity’ on the day by posting images of themselves having a cup of tea alongside the hashtag #SippingInSolidarity #FacebookHasNoStandards.

*Lockdowns trigger surge in disability hate crime (Leonard Cheshire study, October 2021)

About Coventry Youth Activists

Coventry Youth Activists, known as CYA, are a passionate group of young disabled activists from Coventry fighting for the right to a good life for themselves and other people with disabilities.

Follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @CovActivists.