Facebook frustrates advertisers as boycott of hate speech begins

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NEW YORK / SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Ads from more than 400 brands, including Coca-Cola and Starbucks, are slated to disappear from Facebook on Wednesday after failed last-minute talks to stop a boycott of hate speech on the site .

FILE PHOTO: The Facebook logo is displayed on a mobile phone in this illustrated illustration taken on December 2, 2019. REUTERS / Johanna Geron / Illustration / File Photo

American civil rights groups have hired multinationals to help pressure social media giant to take concrete action to block hate speech following the death of George Floyd and in the midst of ‘a national assessment of racism.

Facebook executives, including Carolyn Everson, vice president of global business solutions, and Neil Potts, director of public policy, held at least two meetings with advertisers on Tuesday, ahead of the month-long boycott, said to Reuters three sources who participated in the calls. .

But the leaders have not provided any new details on how they would tackle hate speech, the sources said. Instead, they recalled recent press releases, frustrating call advertisers who think these plans don’t go far enough.

“It just doesn’t move,” an executive from a large advertising agency said in conversation.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to meet with the boycott organizers, a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

American civil rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP and Color of Change, launched the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign after the death of Floyd, a black man who died last month below the knee of ‘a white policeman.

The groups described 10 requests for Facebook, including allowing severely harassed people to speak to a Facebook employee and reimburse brands whose ads appear alongside offensive content that is then removed.

Facebook said earlier this week that it would undergo an audit of its hate speech checks, adding to plans to label content of interest that would otherwise violate its policies, following similar practices on others. social media platforms such as Twitter Inc.

A representative of a digital advertising agency who participated in a call on Tuesday said that Facebook executives had repeatedly made reference to the audit, without offering additional concessions.

Facebook executives contacted chief executive officers, board members, and marketing directors of major advertisers to discuss the boycott, two people who were informed of the talks told Reuters. All sources requested anonymity because they were not allowed to speak on the file.

ADVERTISING TEST

The boycott will be a test for advertisers on how to reach billions of consumers without relying on the world’s largest social media platform, an executive with a large advertising agency said.

Companies that run ads to promote their brand image rather than direct sales are less beholden to Facebook. Many of these, including multinational advertisers who have joined the boycott, will begin to determine how they can achieve the same goals without Facebook, the executive said.

For Facebook, the boycott is unlikely to have a significant financial impact. The top 100 brands on Facebook in 2019 likely only reported 6% of Facebook’s total $ 70 billion in annual revenue, according to a Morningstar research note citing Pathmatics data, which measures most types of advertising on the platform. Facebook said last year that its top 100 advertisers account for less than 20% of total ad revenue.

The news of the boycott wiped out $ 56 billion from Facebook’s market capitalization after its shares fell 8% on Friday. But stocks recovered 3% on Tuesday and are actually trading 8% more than to date.

PRESENCE OF ZUCKBERG

Facebook director of operations Sheryl Sandberg last week asked to meet campaign organizers as well as product manager Chris Cox, longtime friend of Zuckerberg, who returned to Facebook this month. after resigning from company management last year.

Civil rights groups have insisted that Zuckerberg also be at the table, Anti-Defamation League chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt noting that as CEO, president and main shareholder of the company, “he is the ultimate authority. ”

The Facebook spokesperson said Tuesday evening that the company had confirmed that Zuckerberg would join the proposed meeting.

“We are waiting to hear from you and hope to have the opportunity to continue the dialogue,” she said.

Report by Katie Paul and Sheila Dang; additional reporting by Paresh Dave in San Francisco; edited by Kenneth Li and Jane Wardell

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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