Facebook fails to stem the advertising boycott of hate speech

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Facebook’s efforts to stem a growing boycott of customers by introducing new policies failed over the weekend, as big brands like Diageo, Starbucks and Levi’s cut spending.

Facebook will kick off in July with dozens of brands, including Unilever, Verizon and Coca-Cola, canceling advertising for a month to six months – despite the social media network’s latest attempts to prevent the boycott from building up.

On Friday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to broadcast hate speech live in advertisements and better protect groups such as immigrants from attack. He also said the group would label messages that violate its policies but remain published because the platform judges it “in the public interest”, citing certain speeches by politicians as an example.

The last-minute changes came just hours after Unilever, one of Facebook’s biggest blue chip customers, said it would suspend spending on the platform – as well as on Twitter – in the United States, citing concerns about the proliferation of divisive content in the race. until the presidential election of 2020.

Facebook shares fell more than 10% during the week to $ 212.50 a share after Sunday, while Twitter fell about 14% in the same period.

Despite Zuckerberg’s concessions, however, others have joined the list with promises to cut spending on social media more broadly, which could also hit smaller groups like Snap, Twitter and the newcomer TikTok.

In a statement released on Sunday, Starbucks said it “will suspend advertising on all social media platforms while we continue discussions internally, with our media partners and with civil rights organizations in an effort to stop the spread of hate speech ”.

British beverage group Diageo also said it would stop paid advertising globally on “main social media platforms” from July 1, as it “continues to chat with media partners in the way whose content they will treat as unacceptable ”.

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey said there was “no room for racism on social media” and that the company would limit advertising spending on all platforms for a month to review its advertising policies.

Chocolate maker The Hershey Group and clothing group Levi’s made similar decisions after Zuckerberg’s announcement that the measures proposed by Facebook were “just not enough.”

Earlier this month, a consortium of civil rights groups launched a boycott of Facebook under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit, urging advertisers to limit spending on the platform throughout July.

He came in the midst of increasing scrutiny by the company for what critics claim was a random check of his site for hateful content. Anger intensified especially after Facebook made the decision to leave several contentious messages from US President Donald Trump on its platform, including one that used the phrase “when looting begins, the shooting begins”, in reference to protests against the police assassination of George Floyd a month ago. On the other hand, Twitter added a warning to an identical message on its platform for “glorifying violence”.

Over 150 brands and agencies have now joined the boycott, many of which are smaller. However, the inclusion of groups such as Verizon and Unilever is more of a threat to Facebook: they spent $ 850,000 and $ 504,000 on Facebook advertising in the United States in the first three weeks of June, respectively.

Additional reporting by Judith Evans in London

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