In protest against Facebook’s handling of hate comments and derogatory content in its services, dozens of companies have meanwhile appealed for an advertising boycott. The #StopHateForProfit initiative, launched by civil rights organizations in mid-June, included a list of over 90 companies on their website on Sunday that are initially stopping their Facebook advertising in the United States. Some want to extend this measure to the Facebook subsidiary Instagram and Twitter. Facebook now wants to act more against hate messages and false reports, as its boss Mark Zuckerberg emphasized.
The big names include the consumer goods giant Unilever and the car manufacturer Honda. The beverage giant Coca Cola also announced that it would suspend its advertising on all social platforms worldwide for at least 30 days. However, he did not join the boycott, emphasized spokesmen in various US media. The Starbucks coffee house chain also announced on Sunday that it would pause any advertising on social networks until further notice.
“There is no place for racism in the world and no place on social media,” said Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey in a statement. During the advertising break, the company now wants to review its advertising strategies and determine whether changes are necessary. “We also expect more responsibility and more transparency from our social media partners,” he emphasized.
Hershey, one of the world‘s leading chocolate producers, confirmed the newspaper USA Today on Friday to join the boycott call and not run ads in July. The company also plans to cut spending on Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary by a third for the rest of the year.
The US wave of protests against racism and police violence in the wake of the death of African American George Floyd had flared up criticism of Facebook for carelessly handling controversial posts. CEO Zuckerberg also made a significant contribution to this, refusing to take action against controversial statements by US President Donald Trump. There was even criticism from our own employees.
Pack where it hurts
By calling #StopHateForProfit for an advertising boycott, the group is to be hit at a sensitive point – Facebook generates almost all of its revenue from advertising revenue. At Coca Cola alone, the advertising budget in the U.S. made an estimated $ 22 million in 2019 (just under € 21 million), the reported New York Times with reference to data from the industry analyst Pathmatics. At Unilever, it was around $ 42 million.
Facebook and Twitter shares came under heavy pressure on Friday with the expanding boycott. Facebook lost a good 8 percent, which, according to the Bloomberg news agency, corresponded to a loss in value of $ 56 billion. Zuckerberg lost $ 7 billion of his private wealth.
Zuckerberg gives in
Under the growing pressure, Zuckerberg announced on Friday in a livestream that it would take more action against hate messages in the future, delete false reports immediately before the US presidential election and raise the standards for advertising. “I stand against hate and everything that incites violence,” said Zuckerberg at the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto, where he announced the planned measures of his company.
In addition, pejorative and hateful messages about ethnicity, religion or sexual preferences are also to be blocked in the advertising, as Zuckerberg further said. In addition, some Facebook content that actually violates the guidelines of the social network but is relevant to the news, for example due to a prominent sender, is to be flanked with information in the future – as Twitter is already doing.
However, according to media reports, some companies subsequently expressed doubts about it. “We don’t think Facebook will efficiently manage violent and dissident speeches on its platforms,” Hershey wrote in one of the US newspapers USA Today cited explanation. “Despite repeated pledges from Facebook to take action, we haven’t seen any significant changes.”
Honda announced that it would no longer place ads on Facebook and Instagram in July to send a signal against “hate and racism”. Unilever even wants to forego paid advertising for the rest of the year – not only on Facebook but also on Twitter. The short message service, on which Trump likes to publish his often controversial messages, has also been criticized for some time. The Dutch-British group does not want to cut its US advertising budget, but to redistribute it to other companies.
Previously, several other companies, including the US mobile communications giant Verizon and the well-known outdoor brands The North Face and Patagonia, had joined the #StopHateForProfit initiative. Unilever – whose ice cream brand Ben & Jerry’s was also there – is now going one step further – because the campaign was initially only about an advertising boycott in July.