Last night facebook celebrated its major sponsorship role at this year’s Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, with its theme of ‘momentum’. Mia Garlick, head of policy and communications for Facebook Australia and New Zealand, chats with B&T about the event and what the partnership means for Facebook.
According to Facebook’s most recent data, more Australians are taking to the social media platform to discuss LGBTIQ issues. In the past year, more Australians have felt comfortable identifying themselves as LGBTIQ on Facebook. Not only has the total number of Australians who have come out on Facebook risen substantially, but so has the number coming out each day.
More Australians are also showing their interests in LGBTIQ related issues through their interactions with LGBTIQ Facebook Pages. The number of Australians who like prominent LGBTIQ pages grew over 20 per cent in 2015.
During last night’s event, Garlick lead a panel discussion of three prominent people in Australia’s LGBTQI Facebook community: Ivan Hinton-Teoh deputy national director of Australian Marriage Equality; Margot Fink, Young Australian of the Year finalist, community manager of Minus18 and James Brechney creator of the DIY Rainbow movement.
“I thought the panel was amazing; Ivan’s perspective because he’s really hard on the campaigning and activism side, Margot on the youth perspective and James who has been really amazing at creating this iconic way for people to celebrate the community,” Garlick told B&T.
The Mardi Gras theme of momentum was celebrated throughout the night, with the panelist sharing what ‘momentum’ meant to them. “Momentum for me reminds us all that this is a journey…but it is an upward spiral. Momentum reminds us that we’re always getting closer to our goals,” said Brechney.
When Garlick found out about this year’s Mardi Gras theme, it immediately resonated with Facebook as a platform for encouraging momentum within the LGBTIQ community. “The minute I found that out, I thought this was the right fit in terms of what happens on Facebook; people connect and share within the community and then from the broader community to show support. This is what happens every day on the platform, and this shows the momentum within the LGBTIQ community and so I thought it was just a natural fit.”
An example of Facebook pushing for momentum for the community was its recent relaxing of the controversial ‘authentic name’ policy. Garlick discussed why it was important to listen to the community and make changes, “Even though the (previous) policy was coming from a good place, it increased accountability and reduced people’s ability to hide behind a pseudonym to bully and harass people, we realized that the way we were implementing it was actually causing harm to people within the LGBTIQ community.
“That certainly wasn’t our intention and so we’ve been really working to try and rectify that, so our vice president of products Chris Cox apologised to the community and then we’ve been slowly listening to the concerns and really changing the way we implement that policy. We’re constantly listening to feedback around this to try and make sure we’re being more understanding to the very big diversity which exists with 1.5 billion people on the platform.”