CYA win prestigious national award for campaign to change how disability hate is handled by social media giants

Last night (19 May) a group of young activists who challenged Facebook’s disability hate and ableism policies won the prestigious Sheila McKechnie David and Goliath Award, writes award organisers SMK Campaigners.

Despite rising levels of disability hate crime online, Coventry Youth Activists (CYA) always got the same response when they tried to report a problem – hateful posts don’t breach Facebook’s Community Standards.

A yellow and black image announces CYA as winners of the David and Goliath award 2022. CYA are seen holding placards outisde Facebook offices in London.
Award winners CYA.

CYA’s response was that Facebook doesn’t have any standards, otherwise they wouldn’t allow hateful, ableist posts to remain online.

They decided to take on the corporate giant and secured a meeting with Facebook (something that many larger organisations have failed to do). However, after this, all communication stopped. Undeterred, they continued their fight with a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party outside Facebook’s London HQ – inviting Facebook to sit down with them and talk.

They also turned their attention to ensuring that issues facing people with disabilities are not ignored as part of the Online Safety Bill, meeting MPs and Peers to share their ideas. CYA worked with allies and local government to influence the legislation. Their aim was to ensure that disabled people were protected, their concerns were included and social media companies became more accountable.

A large group of disabled activists outside Facebook HQ in London armed with placards ready to porotest about online disability hate
CYA during their London action in October 2021.

The difference the campaign has had on the young people in the group has been huge. Young people with anxiety, who would often find social situations overwhelming, stood outside Facebook HQ sharing their own story in front of a crowd on a megaphone. Young people with learning disabilities, often excluded by society, ran online meetings with people in positions of power to hold them to account.

We think the campaign is extraordinary for its ambition, impact and empowering energy.

SMK Awards judge David Graham says: “Everyone knows that the internet giants cause harm but few try and do anything about it. It was hugely impressive that a small local disability charity took on Facebook and embarrassed them.”

This press release was issued by SMK Campaigners.

Coventry Youth Activists are part of our #ShiftingPower action strand at Grapevine.

Further information

The SMK National Campaigner Awards celebrate the best campaigns and campaigners – whether working locally or nationally, and from individuals and community groups to people working in large organisations.

The Awards is where we bring the campaign community together to champion and celebrate campaigning, demonstrating its value and acknowledging success.

The David and Goliath category is sponsored by Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, who seek to bring about significant changes in the political system, making it more accountable, democratic and transparent and to rebalance power for the well-being of society.