Facebook treating US territories as not part of the United States

by | Nov 26, 2018 | Economy, Headlines | Comments

According to Facebook, the nearly 4 million Americans living in the United States territories do not live in the “United States.” Instead, Puerto Rico, Guam, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa and the Northern Mariana Islands are each treated as being a separate foreign country. As a result, on #GivingTuesday residents of US territories will be unable to use Facebook’s charitable donation tools to support their favorite charities.

For Equally American, a nonprofit advocacy organization working to end the second class treatment of Americans living in US territories, Facebook’s discriminatory practices both perpetuate misconceptions about US territories and restrict its ability to fundraise on #GivingTuesday.

“Facebook’s entry into nonprofit fundraising has a lot to like, with zero fees and a $7 million matching program with Paypal on #GivingTuesday. But it’s hard to miss the irony of how Facebook’s unequal treatment of Americans in US territories makes it harder for our nonprofit to bring an end to unequal treatment in US territories,” said Neil Weare, president and founder of Equally American.

“Facebook has been an important part of our advocacy toolkit, making it easier to build community across five territories and a diaspora that extends throughout the 50 states. But the inability of our supporters in US territories to use Facebook’s contribution tools really limits what we’re able to achieve using its platform,” Weare added.

Equally American is currently litigating the question of whether US territories are in “the United States” for purposes of the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, challenging discriminatory federal laws that deny birthright citizenship in certain US territories.

Equally American’s Giving Tuesday campaign on Facebook seeks to raise $10,000 in support of its advocacy. With Facebook and Paypal’s match, this would mean $20,000 in overall support – a significant boost for a small nonprofit. But the limits Facebook places on contributors from US territories make it substantially more difficult for Equally American to reach its goal. Unable to contribute to Equally American through Facebook, residents of US territories must instead donate directly through the nonprofit’s own website.  This means 2.2% in Paypal processing fees, and exclusion from Facebook and PayPal’s $7 million matching program.

Facebook’s matching program starts at 8:00 am ET on Tuesday, November 27, 2018, which is 9:00 am in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, 11:00 pm in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, and 2:00 am in American Samoa.

Responding to an inquiry about Facebook’s discrimination against users in US territories, Facebook Support responded “we know this is frustrating and disappointing to people in Guam and other areas where are tools aren’t available, but [we] continue to work with partners to expand to other areas as quickly as possible.”

Russell Pate, a supporter of Equally American and former President of the US Virgin Islands Bar Association, demonstrated in a video how Facebook’s contribution tool doesn’t work in the US Virgin Islands, explaining his concern about “pervasive discrimination that starts at the government and then actually goes down into the private sector. It’s very unfortunate to be treated as a second-class citizen.” He added: “Every American citizen should have the same rights and same opportunities.”

Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, who represents the US Virgin Islands as a non-voting Member of Congress, reacted to this latest discrimination against residents of U.S. territories by saying, “In the scheme of things, Facebook’s discrimination against Virgin Islanders on #GivingTuesday pales in comparison to the discrimination we face every day in federal programs like Medicaid. But no American should be discriminated against simply because of where they live, whether it’s by the federal government or a private sector entity like Facebook.”