Facebook's Counter-Programming During the Inauguration

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Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Rashida Jones

A live-streaming charity telethon with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rashida Jones and Judd Apatow aims to reach 30 to 50 million people and raise $500,000.

Today, as millions of Americans tune in to Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration, another movement will be playing out on screen: the “Love-a-Thon,” a Jerry Lewis-style, celebrity-packed telethon, which will stream for three-and-a-half hours on Facebook Live, starting at 12:30 PM EST.

A-list celebrity participants include Chelsea Handler, Jamie-Lee Curtis, Judd Apatow, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Rashida Jones and Tim Robbins, who pre-recorded videos to be played throughout the show. Stars will also be blasting out messages through their own social channels. Jesse Tyler Ferguson will speak about LGBT rights, while Star Trek veteran George Takei will discuss his experience growing up in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. Jane Fonda will even appear, revealing how she once had her phone tapped by President Richard Nixon.

The monumental event — the first of its kind for Facebook — is the brainchild of Alex Godin, a 23-year-old tech entrepreneur based in New York City. “After November, I was really looking for something to do,” he says of the endeavor, which aims to raise $500,000 to support three charities in danger of losing funding or support under the incoming administration: the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and Earth Justice.

Godin used his tech-world network to assemble an impressive team — including Sam Koppelman, the digital content strategist for Hillary Clinton’s campaign — to help bring his vision to life. In a matter of weeks, they were able to secure Crowdrise as the online fundraising partner and Upworthy — the hugely successful viral content site — as the media partner.

He enlisted comedian Judah Friedlander — who has a standup album and film called America Is the Greatest Country in the United States coming out later this year — to host the live show, which will be broadcast out of a New York City studio.

He also called on Justin Mikita and Todd Hawkins of LA-based social impact firm Hawkins Mikita to get celebrities to participate. The two have long been involved with social causes and are activists in their own rights (Mikita is the husband of Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson, with whom he formed Tie the Knot, a bow-tie line with proceeds promoting marriage equality). 

The duo immediately saw the potential for the Love-a-Thon to gather celebrity influencers looking to engage with the public. “This is a really busy time for most people in the industry, with awards season, and this was a great way for talent to be involved somehow, someway,” says Hawkins. “Even if they can’t be somewhere in person, they can do something through social media that is impactful.”

Between UpWorthy’s 10 million followers and the scope of the celebrities’ social media reach, Love-a-Thon organizers expect to reach an audience of 30 to 50 million people, with over 10 million expected views.

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