POLITICS

Facebook Ad Boycott Gains Steam As Companies Join 'Stop Hate For Profit'

A growing movement has brands reevaluating their relationship with the social media platform.

More corporate advertisers are pulling ads from Facebook for the month of July, joining the Stop Hate for Profit boycott organized last week by the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Color of Change and other civil rights groups. The campaign urges advertisers to “hit pause on hate.”

The list of participating companies has grown in recent days to include The North Face, Patagonia, Arc’teryx, outdoor retailer REI, Ben & Jerry’s, Eileen Fisher, Eddie Bauer, Magnolia Pictures, Upwork, HigherRing, Dashlane and Talkspace. On Thursday, Verizon (HuffPost’s parent company) also joined the boycott.

Advertising agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners on Wednesday said it, too, will join the protest, and it encouraged its 45 clients — which include big names such as BMW, Frito-Lay, Hewlett–Packard and PepsiCo — to participate as well.

“For years, we ― and others ― have called on Facebook to change,” ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt told HuffPost of the campaign. “They have not. What matters to Facebook is profits. So if they see what a one-month pause would mean to their bottom line, then maybe they will get the message and act.”

Procter & Gamble left the door open on the possibility of joining the boycott but wouldn’t commit to any concrete action, Marc Pritchard, the company’s chief brand officer, told Ad Age Wednesday.

Stop Hate for Profit issued a list of product recommendations for Facebook to better moderate content that targets people because of their race or religion. It also released data enumerating how often identity-based hate is posted on the platform.

Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are no longer simply negligent, but in fact, complacent in the spread of misinformation, despite the irreversible damage to our democracy. NAACP CEO Derrick Johnson

Other recommendations: Notify advertisers when their ads are shown next to content that’s later removed for misinformation or hate; increase moderation of private groups that often harbor and promote extremist ideologies; and release an audited transparency report proving the company is actually following through on its word.

“It is clear that Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are no longer simply negligent, but in fact, complacent in the spread of misinformation, despite the irreversible damage to our democracy,” NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson said in a statement. “Such actions will upend the integrity of our elections as we head into 2020.”

Facebook has long struggled to curtail violent and extremist content on the platform even though such content violates company policy. In May, a study conducted by the watchdog group Tech Transparency Project found that white supremacist groups are “thriving” on the platform.

A Facebook spokesperson disagreed with that characterization and told HuffPost the company is “making progress keeping this activity off our platform,” including removing much of the content before it is even reported.

Other persistent issues include organized disinformation campaigns and policies that look the other way on political deceit.

However successful the boycott may be in applying political pressure on Facebook, without a critical mass it’s unlikely to significantly affect the company’s bottom line. Facebook generated more than $70 billion in revenue last year, almost all of it from ad sales.

Nevertheless, in what may be a sign of growing unease, top Facebook executives on Tuesday held a conference call with around 200 advertisers seeking to address their concerns.

Leaked audio of the call obtained by the Financial Times revealed that Facebook’s head of trust and safety, Neil Potts, acknowledged what he euphemistically referred to as a “trust deficit” with consumers.

Potts used the term when asked by someone on the call, “Why as advertisers we should risk our brands’ reputation by staying on your platform?” Another asked how the company is “reconciling the loss of faith in Facebook as a trustworthy source of information.”

Facebook told the Financial Times that the call was part of a normal routine conversation with advertisers.

“We have reached out to Facebook on numerous occasions in good faith, asking them to mitigate hate on their platform,” the ADL’s Greenblatt said. “However, we have been met with, at worst, silence and, at best, unfulfilled promises.”

He added: “It is our hope that our collective voice will send a signal to corporate America, to the media and specifically to Facebook that they can no longer profit off of hate, racism and disinformation.”

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