Facebook ad boycott targets EU as top US brands join

facebook nThe Facebook advertising boycott campaign, which has already seen 160 companies – including major brands including Unilever, Levi Strauss, Starbucks, Coca-Cola and Diageo – suspend their US ads on the social media giant for at least a month, is targeting Europe as the next battleground.

The “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign, which on Friday wiped out $56bn from the company’s share price and cost founder Mark Zuckerberg $7.2bn, will begin calling on major companies in Europe to join the boycott.

Free Press and Common Sense Media, along with US civil rights groups Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League, launched the campaign following the death of George Floyd in the US. Its website reads: “Could they protect and support Black users? Could they call out Holocaust denial as hate? Could they help get out the vote?… They absolutely could. But they are actively choosing not to do so.”

Common Sense Media chief executive Jim Steyer said that “the next frontier is global pressure”, adding the campaign hopes to embolden regulators in Europe to take a harder stance on Facebook.

Stop Hate for Profit has outlined a set of demands, which include a separate moderation process to help users who are targeted by race and other identifiers, more transparency on how many incidents of hate speech are reported and to stop generating ad revenue from harmful content.

In response, Zuckerberg says the firm will now tweak its policies, promising “to connect people with authoritative information about voting, crack down on voter suppression, and fight hate speech”.

Actions include labelling posts that are potentially harmful and even in violation of the platform’s policies but are not censored by the platform because they are deemed newsworthy.

Facebook will also add a link to its voting information centre to posts that reference voting, including those made by politicians such as President Trump.

Zuckerberg has refused to remove all divisive political material, however. He said: “A handful of times a year, we leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm.

“Often, seeing speech from politicians is in the public interest, and in the same way that news outlets will report what a politician says, we think people should generally be able to see it for themselves on our platforms.”

Nevertheless, the boycott is unlikely to dent Facebook’s ad revenue that much; about three-quarters of its $70bn in advertising income comes from SMEs. And, as some have pointed out, the biggest spenders, including Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Microsoft, Target, and Amazon, have yet to join the action.

Even so, shareholders will be wary of the brand turning “toxic” and are likely to keep the pressure on Zuckerberg if the boycott escalates further.

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