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Facebook Unintentionally Declares War in the Philippines

This year on June the 12th was Independence Day in the Philippines. As is customary on public holidays, Facebook celebrated the occasion by sending their best wishes to users ­- but this time they departed from their normal light-­hearted voice by accidentally claiming that the country was at war.

Facebook like to ensure their users feel cared for. It’s the cuddly part of their branding that helps to entice users back to the network over and over again. That’s why they often share featured content and encourage users to engage in a social media dialogue. Independence Day in the Philippines was no exception. But as a result of sharing an image with the flag flying upside down they also unintentionally became the subject of much contempt by Filipino users.

Poor fact-checking resulting in a botched campaign

As stated in section 10 of the Philippines’ Republic Act 8491, “The flag, if flown from a flagpole, shall have its blue field on top in time of peace and the red field on top in time of war…” The image that Facebook posted included the latter of these, thus stating that the country was in a state of war.

When the resulting social media backlash came, the social network hastily deleted the post and issued a statement of apology to The Philippine Star.

What can businesses take from Facebook’s boo­boo?

If there’s one thing businesses can learn from the mistake it’s to always ensure that your desire to share far-reaching and engaging content doesn’t overshadow sufficient research. While you should certainly be reaching out to different subsets of your user base, always bear in mind that if you are engaging over something that you don’t have much knowledge of you should check your facts are correct right down to the finest detail.

The last thing you want is something seemingly innocent to end up landing you embroiled in some kind of controversy. Thankfully for Facebook in this case it was short lived ­- but you might not be so lucky.

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