CrossFit Shutters Facebook, Instagram Accounts Amid Data Privacy Concerns

May 23, 2019 by
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CrossFit’s decision Monday to deactivate all Facebook and Instagram pages indefinitely was fueled by growing data and privacy concerns with the social media giant, Greg Glassman revealed on a call with the Morning Chalk Up. 

CrossFit staff has been silent on the changes amid large speculation in the community about what is actually going on. On Tuesday, Morning Chalk Up confirmed that the pages are, in fact, deactivated indefinitely. 

The explanation: “All activity on CrossFit, Inc.’s Facebook and Instagram accounts is suspended as of May 24, 2019, as CrossFit investigates the circumstances pertaining to Facebook’s deletion of the Banting7DayMealPlan and other well-known public complaints about the social-media company that may adversely impact the security and privacy of our global CrossFit community.” 

  • In a nutshell: Facebook“doesn’t comport with my community standards for privacy and decency, so we’re out.” 

CrossFit’s argument: Glassman was emphatic that the breakup with Facebook stems from a fundamental disagreement with how Facebook uses user data. 

  • “Facebook and its properties host and oversee a significant share of the marketplace of public thought.”
  • With an audience 2.32 billion monthly active users, Facebook is the largest social media on the planet. 
  • “Facebook thus serves as a de facto authority over the public square, arbitrating a worldwide exchange of information as well as overseeing the security of the individuals and communities who entrust their ideas, work, and private data to this platform. This mandates a certain responsibility and assurance of good faith, transparency, and due process.”
  • If you only read one line: “CrossFit, Inc., as a voluntary user of and contributor to this marketplace, can and must remove itself from this particular manifestation of the public square when it becomes clear that such responsibilities are betrayed or reneged upon to the detriment of our community. Common decency demands that we do so, as do our convictions regarding fitness, health, and nutrition, which sit at the heart of CrossFit’s identity and prescription.”

Glassman was willing to live with some of these privacy concerns until a South Africa-based low-carb Facebook group — called “Banting 7 Day Meal Plans” — with 1.65 million members was deleted without warning or explanation. 

  • Glassman: “The final straw was when they deleted without notice or explanation a low carb high fat FB page with 1.6 million users in South Africa.”
  • Continuing on: “The group has 1.65 million users who post testimonials and other information regarding the efficacy of a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. While the site has subsequently been reinstated (also without warning or explanation), Facebook’s action should give any serious person reason to pause, especially those of us engaged in activities contrary to prevailing opinion.”
  • The Facebook group was live on Tuesday, when your author requested to join. As of late Tuesday night, the page was removed, then reinstated.

More details: Glassman outlined eight specific reasons on a call with Morning Chalk Up, which he said would be released in full on today at 5:00 PM PT. CrossFit staff, including Glassman himself, would be on responding to comments. 

  • At the top of the list: “Facebook collects and aggregates user information and shares it with state and federal authorities as well as security organizations from other countries.”
  • Unauthorized removal of content via truth squads: “Facebook censors and removes user accounts based on unknown criteria and at the request of third parties including government and foreign government agencies.”
  • Facebook’s reselling of user data: “Facebook collects, aggregates, and sells user information as a matter of business. Its business model allows governments and businesses alike to use its algorithmically conjured advertising categories as sophisticated data-mining and surveillance tools.”

Between the lines: While CrossFit hasn’t experienced any instances where Facebook has mistreated the user data of their community, the truth is that they could in the future and Glassman isn’t prepared to give them that opportunity. He also emphasized that the more CrossFit increases its reliance on the platform, the harder it will be to walk away in the future. 

  • Glassman: “What am I going to do? Sell a couple million people down the pike?”, referring to a deal being considered by CrossFit, Inc. to give Facebook exclusive streaming of the CrossFit Games. 
  • Olivia Leonard, Executive Director of the CrossFit Foundation: “In order to entrust a community to an entity like Facebook, you have to believe that that entity acts in the best interest of that community and the individuals in it. I think it’s pretty clear Facebook violates that standard of trust in a variety of ways.” 
  • Brian Mulvaney, Chief Advisor: “Why would we take our community and package it up for sale to Facebook? They can’t take our CrossFitters and package them up for sale.”

CrossFit isn’t exactly wrong. Facebook’s mishandling of user’s data has been well documented. Here’s just a small sample of the headlines over the past year:

  • March 17, 2018 news breaks that Cambridge Analytica was able to harvest data from million of Facebook users without their knowledge. (Phil McCausland and Anna Schecter / NBC News)
  • Facebook increases the number of users affected by data harvesting increased to 87 million. (Alyssa Newcomb / NBC News)
  • April 2018, WhatsApp’s co-founder announces departure amid data privacy concerns. (Nick Statt / The Verge)
  • September 2018, Facebook announces a security loophole that allowed 50 million accounts to be taken over. (David Ingram / NBC News)
  • A December New York Times report revealed that Facebook gave companies like Microsoft, Netflix and Spotify unauthorized access to users’ data. (Gabriel J.X. Dance, Michael LaForgia and Nicholas Confessore / New York Times)
  • In April 2019, the Federal Trade Commission announced Facebook would be fined from $3 – $5 billion for their “handling of user data and potential privacy violations” during the Cambridge Analytica scandal. (Vox / Emily Stewart)
  • Recently, we learned Facebook is handing over data to academic researchers to help them figure out how social media impacts elections and democracy. (Vox / Emily Stewart)

By the Numbers: How big was CrossFit’s Instagram and Facebook audience?

  • CrossFit Games’ Instagram: 2.4 million
  • CrossFit’s Instagram: 2.8 million
  • CrossFit Games’ Facebook: 2.7 million
  • CrossFit’s Facebook: 3.1 million

How this might affect Sanctionals: Sanctionals have been supported by CrossFit Games’ Facebook page sharing their live stream to boost viewership. 

  • Five of 15 Sanctionals are brand new: Australian CrossFit Championship, Reykjavik CrossFit Championship, Down Under CrossFit Championship, Brazil CrossFit Championship and Rogue Invitational. 
  • Combined, their Facebook fanbase totals 32,800. Rogue is also able to benefit from their massive 1.7 million Facebook fan base.
  • CrossFit will still be able to support those Sanctionals by embedding streams on and crossposting to Twitter. 

Where do we go from here:

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