Starbucks pauses social media ads as it targets 'hate speech'

Daniel Fowler
June 30, 2020

Facebook employees staged a virtual walkout earlier this month after company executives declined to add a warning label to President Trump's post that looting would lead to shooting during nationwide protests against racial inequality.

While Facebook is a valuable tool for companies searching for eyeballs and customers willing to dip into their wallets, the boycott hurts the social media company more than the brands edging away from it, said Joanne McNeish, an associate professor of marketing at Ryerson University. "Let's send Facebook a powerful message: Your profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence", the campaign website said.

Although Starbucks did not explicitly name Facebook in the statement, its move comes as a growing movement to boycott the social network for not doing enough to stop hate speech on its platforms gathers steam.

"From 1 July we will pause all paid advertising globally on major social media platforms".

"We believe in bringing communities together, both in person and online, and we stand against hate speech", the Seattle-based corporation, which operates thousands of restaurants around the world, said in a brief statement. "We believe more must be done to create welcoming and inclusive online communities, and we believe both business leaders and policy makers need to come together to affect real change".

Starbucks is the latest big company to rethink advertising on Facebook, announcing Sunday it will stop paying for content across all social media platforms while consulting with civil rights groups and media partners.

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Champions of the.StopHateForProfit boycott - led by civil rights and advocacy groups including the Anti-Defamation League and National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - say Facebook has not done enough to keep racist, false and unsafe content or white supremacists off its platform.

Facebook appeared to respond Friday by announcing it would ban a "wider category of hateful content" in ads. "Facebook needs to address this issue quickly and effectively in order to stop advertising exits from potentially spiralling out of control". The company, which had been "steadily reducing its reliance on the social media giant over the past two years", according to The New York Times, is estimated to have spent a relatively modest $947,100 on Facebook in the U.S.in 2019.

"Non-profit groups are appealing to advertisers to police social media, given the general reluctance or refusal of the companies to do so themselves".

The U.S. Facebook estimates for some of the other large advertisers that have implemented suspensions include $42.4 million for Unilever, $22.9 million for Verizon, and $22.1 million for Coca-Cola.

No single company can significantly dent growth at Facebook, which generated US$17.7 billion (S$24.6 billion) in revenue last quarter alone. They include calls to "stop recommending or otherwise amplifying groups or content from groups associated with hate, misinformation or conspiracies to users" and to "find and remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation and climate denialism".

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