Facebook has gagged our story last week on The Stock Coalition, and its call for photographers and media buyers to boycott online creative stock giant Shutterstock, after the New York-based agency cut contributor compensation to as low as $0.10 per download.
In our article we noted that ‘Shutterstock is waiting for all of this to blow over. And while the backlash was likely expected, it’s doubtful Shutterstock’s new management, including recently-appointed CEO Stan Pavlovsky, anticipated contributors would form a lobby group.’
‘I’ve never heard of a new article ever being barred from Facebook, let alone enjoyed the honour of it being something I’ve written!’ said Inside Imaging editor, Will Shipton. ‘But I’m fairly disappointed Facebook would block the article, and also surprised. I have no idea how this happened, so if you have any theories I’m all ears!’
‘It’s pretty obvious that the only ones who could possibly have found this article offensive are Shutterstock’s own management.’
Shutterstock has a deep and pivotal business relationship with Facebook, which positions it as perhaps the stock agency’s largest single customer: Shutterstock images are made available, via an integrated Shutterstock API, to any of Facebook’s millions of advertisers for use in creating online advertising.
According to the Shutterstock website: With the Shutterstock integration, marketers will have access to millions of images from the Shutterstock library — at no additional cost. Shutterstock’s images are commercially licensed and available for use in all Facebook ad formats. Thanks to Shutterstock’s API and search capabilities, these images will be fully searchable and accessible directly within Facebook’s ad creation tool.
These Shutterstock images are fully searchable and accessible directly within Facebook’s ad creation tool.
Almost as soon as the Inside Imaging piece was published, Facebook placed a gag on sharing it. Reader, Elijah Lovkoff, provided a screenshot of a message from Facebook that read: ‘Your message couldn’t be sent because it includes content that other people on Facebook have reported as abusive.’
Stock Coalition representatives from around the world soon began reporting the same problem.
Dimitar Gorgev, a spokesman for the Stock Coalition says: ‘We were particularly impressed with [Will] Shipton’s article, because he clearly went the extra mile to interview not just us, but also other industry representatives too. We felt the article was well researched and…explained the situation well. As a result, we called on our membership to spread the article far and wide across their social media platforms.
‘It’s almost unthinkable that someone could be even remotely offended by an industry article written by a specialist journalist dealing with a disagreement over commissions. It’s pretty obvious that the only ones who could possibly have found this article offensive are Shutterstock’s own management.
‘Is it even possible that Shutterstock executives leveraged their multimillion-dollar business clout or “big tech” relationships to orchestrate this Facebook gag?’ Gorgev continued ‘We call on Facebook’s leadership at the highest level to investigate what happened in this matter and heads should roll if “big tech” favours got in the way of freedom of speech.’
The Stock Coalition’s call for a global boycott of Shutterstock has been extended until the end of June. As at the time of writing, thousands of contributors had joined the global movement, deactivating millions of files in their collective portfolios.
‘This is not a fight Shutterstock can win. It’s not even a fight that they should be having,’ said Alistair Cotton, a former journalist and communications professional who wrote the original Stock Coalition press release. ‘There is a freight train of fed-up artists from around the world barrelling towards agency management and they are just standing in the middle of the tracks pulling a finger.
‘It’s clear that Shutterstock’s management have no idea what they are doing, either in terms of extracting real value from the large number of creative works that have been entrusted to them, or how to engage with their suppliers in a meaningful way. It’s clear that they should either step down, or shareholders should find a better management team that knows how to engage properly with their business-critical stakeholders before it’s too late for them.’
Another member of the Stock Coalition, vector illustrator, Ania Dergachev, says: ‘After Shutterstock’s commission cut, a single mother posted on a forum in desperation because she literally no longer knew how to feed her children. This is the human impact of Shutterstock’s actions, and it’s people like these that we represent.’
Profit before principle
Shutterstock management has form when it comes to making decisions which put profit above principle. At the request of the Chinese government, it now censors searches which could offend the communist dictatorship, confirming ‘President Xi’, ‘Chairman Mao’, ‘Taiwan flag,’ ‘dictator’, ‘yellow umbrella’ (symbol of HK democracy protests), ‘Chinese flag’, and variations of them are on the list of Shutterstock’s banned-in-China searches.
In response to questions from staff uncomfortable that Shutterstock is cooperating with the CCP in censorship, newly-minted CEO Stan Pavlovsky (pictured right) suggested they get a job somewhere else. In a recording of a staff meeting reported by NBC News he said: ‘…Employees have a lot of opportunities to work here, to work elsewhere, and we are very supportive when employees do not feel that this is the right place for them, to pursue other opportunities.’