Coke, Unilever join Facebook ad boycott

Ruben Fields
June 28, 2020

On the social media platform, lots of misinformation and hate speech towards certain groups gets posted, yet Facebook does little to combat such content.

"We have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the US", Unilever said in a statement.

"Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society", it said. The advertising revenue loss could hit $255m if Procter & Gamble, Facebook's biggest spender, follows through on hints it might join the boycott.

More than 90 advertisers, including Honda, Ben & Jerry's, Verizon Communications and The North Face, have joined the campaign, according to a list by ad activism group Sleeping Giants.

Twitter, which has not been the target of the formal ad boycott but has faced similar criticisms as Facebook over the years, says that Unilever reached out to alert the company of its decision before making the announcement publicly.

Mark Zuckerberg just became $7.2 billion poorer after a flurry of companies pulled advertising from Facebook's network.

Zuckerberg said the changes "come directly from feedback from the civil rights community and reflect months of work with our civil rights auditors".

Color of Change, one of the organizers of the boycott explains: "This continues a significant trend of major brands - including Unilever and Verizon - committing to pause Facebook ads for at least the month of July".

"We want to see meaningful progress towards ending the amplification of misinformation and hate speech and better addressing of political advertisements and content that contributes to voter suppression". Facebook, which already prohibits advertising that discriminates, also sharpened those policies on Friday with a clause saying no ads will be allowed if they label another demographic as risky, or if they portray immigrants, migrant groups or refugees as inferior and worthy of disgust.

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Users will still be able to share the content, but Facebook will add a prompt telling people that it may violate company's policies.

"There are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I'm announcing here today", said Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg in a video update.

Facebook will also start adding new labels to all posts about voting that will direct users to authoritative information from state and local election officials.

It has already drawn an initial retreat from Facebook which announced that it will now put warning labels on posts by politicians that break its rules, however, this is unlikely to be enough.

That's not all. Stop Hate for Profit is also seeking refunds for advertisers whose messages appear next to content that was removed for violating Facebook's terms of service.

The campaign comes as the nation has been rocked by protests over the killing of George Floyd, and corporate America has faced vast pressure to reaffirm commitment to racial justice initiatives through actions not just words. As recently as last week the company made clear that Facebook does not consider much of the language that Trump uses to suppress voting to be voter suppression, defending Trump's posts as being "legitimate debate". "We will continue to review our voter suppression policies on an ongoing basis as part of our work on voter engagement and racial justice". "Such actions will upend the integrity of our elections as we head into 2020".

"Unilever's statement cites divisiveness as well as hate speech", said Nicole Perrin, principal analyst with market research firm eMarketer.

The new policy on hateful content will "prohibit claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others", Zuckerberg wrote on his Facebook page.

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