Whether it’s to “bring the world closer together” or improve its public image, Facebook today announced Community Boost. It’s a program travelling to 30 cities around the U.S. in 2018 that will teach digital job skills to the unemployed, Internet literacy to those just getting online, startup methodology to entrepreneurs, and customer growth to small business owners.
Unsurprisingly, though, all these skills revolve around Facebook, which Facebook clearly thinks is they key to a better life. Stops on the tour include Houston, St. Louis, Albuquerque, Des Moines and Greenville, South Carolina — which are conspiculously all red states that voted for Trump in the 2016 election. Perhaps Facebook hopes to reduce unemployment that led to the disatisfaction with current political systems which landed us Trump.
Facebook cites research by Morning Consult indicating “62% percent of US small businesses using Facebook said having digital or social media skills is an important factor in their hiring decisions — even more important than where a candidate went to school.” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner says that “We’re happy to welcome Facebook to Houston to boost our residents’ digital skills and make sure our vibrant community of entrepreneurs and small businesses gets more out of the internet.”
The program might be perceived as less self-serving if Facebook had concentrated on teaching skills beyond it site, like how to make a good looking resume or handle job interviews. So while the intention behind Facebook Community Boost might be honest, it’s tough to interpret it as altruistic while Facebook is amidst congressional hearings into election interference on its platform and is toying with the entire journalism industry as it sucks out ad dollars and jobs.
Here’s a look at Facebook’s plans for the program, with the parts where people learn to better use Facebook bolded.
If you’re looking for a job, we’ll provide training to help you improve your digital and social media skills. According to the research, 62% percent of US small businesses using Facebook said having digital or social media skills is an important factor in their hiring decisions — even more important than where a candidate went to school.
If you’re an entrepreneur, we’ll have training programs on how to use technology to turn an idea into a business or show you ways to create a free online presence using Facebook.
If you’re a business owner we’re going to offer ways your business can expand its digital footprint and find new customers around the corner and around the globe.
If you’re getting online for the first time or you want to support your community, we’ll provide training on digital literacy and online safety. And we’ll also help community members use technology to bring people together, with features like Events and Groups.
All that said, it’s hard to imagine any of the the other tech giants like Google, Apple, or Amazon pouring resources into something so directly tied to improving people’s socioeconomic mobility. Users can request Community Boost come to their city by filling out this form.
Facebook tells me its invested over $1 billion into supporting small businesses since 2011 through programs like like Boost Your Business classes that teaches social media management, and the Blueprint online learning hub that 1 million businesses have looked to for social marketing skills. Facebook is also building a digital marketing curriculum to train 3,000 Michiganders in the next two years.
It will take a lot more to convince people Facebook is a benevolent force in the world. Even though its heart is often in the right place, Facebook has demonstrated an inability to predict the misuse and negative secondary impacts of its platform or do enough preemptively to prevent these problems. But if it wants to mend the rift in U.S. society, getting more people employed is a good start.