Facebook ad boycott campaign to go global, organizers say

By Sheila Dang

Organizers of a Facebook Inc advertising boycott campaign that has drawn support from a rapidly expanding list of major companies are now preparing to take the battle global to increase pressure on the social media company to remove hate speech.

The "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign will begin calling on major companies in Europe to join the boycott, Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, said in an interview with Reuters. Since the campaign launched earlier this month, more than 160 companies, including Verizon Communications and Unilever Plc, have signed on to stop buying ads on the world’s largest social media platform for the month of July.

Free Press and Common Sense, along with U.S. civil rights groups Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League, launched the campaign following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis police.

"The next frontier is global pressure," Steyer said, adding the campaign hopes to embolden regulators in Europe to take a harder stance on Facebook. The European Commission in June announced new guidelines for tech companies including Facebook to submit monthly reports on how they are handling coronavirus misinformation.

The outrage in the United States over the death of Floyd has led to an unprecedented reaction from corporations around the world. Its impact has been felt beyond U.S. borders. Unilever, for example, changed the name of a skin-lightening product popular in India called Fair and Lovely.

The global campaign will proceed as organizers continue to urge more U.S. companies to participate. Jessica Gonzalez, co-chief executive of Free Press, said she has contacted major U.S. telecommunications and media companies to ask them to join the campaign.

Responding to demands for more action, Facebook on Sunday acknowledged it has more work to do and is teaming up with civil rights groups and experts to develop more tools to fight hate speech. Facebook said its investments in artificial intelligence have allowed it to find 90% of hate speech before users report it.

Expanding the campaign outside the United States will take a bigger slice off of Facebook’s advertising revenue but is not likely have major financial impact. Unilever, for instance, on Friday committed to pausing its U.S. spending on Facebook for the rest of the year. That only accounts for about 10% of its overall estimated $250 million it spends on Facebook advertising annually, according to Richard Greenfield of LightShed Partners, a media and tech research firm.

Steyer said they will urge global advertisers such as Unilever and Honda, which have only committed to pausing U.S. ads, to pull their Facebook ads globally.

Annually, Facebook generates $70 billion in advertising sales and about a quarter of it comes from big companies such as Unilever with the vast majority of its revenue derived from small businesses.

But the publicity around its hate speech policies have hurt its perception and stock. On Friday, Facebook's 8.3% decline in stock price wiped out $56 billion in market capitalization.

The renewed push to urge more companies outside of the United States to join demonstrates the level of frustration felt by social justice groups and the companies that support them over Facebook’s lack of action on misinformation and hate speech, Steyer said.

He and Gonzalez said Facebook’s efforts on Friday to introduce new measures to ban ads and label hate speech from politicians to appease boycotters fell short of the campaign’s demands.

“If they think they are done based on Friday, they are sorely mistaken,” Gonzalez said. “We don't need a one-off policy here and there. We need comprehensive policy.”

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.

Moreover, Facebook did not address demands that it refund companies whose ads are displayed next to content that is later removed for policy violations, said Ian Orekondy, chief executive of AdComplyRx, an advertising tech company that helps pharmaceutical brands with their digital ads, which has joined the boycott.

The boycott has accelerated to include other digital advertising platforms such as Twitter. Starbucks said Sunday it would pause advertising on all social media platforms while it works with civil rights organizations to "stop the spread of hate speech."

© (c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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"Hate speech encourages and results in violence because it portrays others as being less than human. Such ill-mannered bigotry has no place in a regular social forum. The hatemongers can post their stupid crap elsewhere on the net - there's plenty of options for the numbskulls."

Who becomes the arbiter of what qualifies as "hate speech"?  Why does their opinion matter?  What gives them the right to say one person's words are ok and another person's words are not?  If you value free speech you do not condone censorship of speech.  Any speech.  As I said above, the way to deal with objectionable ideas in print or spoken is by constructing a logical counter argument.  If you allow free speech to be curtailed for whatever reason you engage in tyranny.   Words in and of themselves are harmless.   People need to learn self control and not engage in censorship.   Read the thoughts of James Madison, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams on the value of free speech.

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Hate speech encourages and results in violence because it portrays others as being less than human. Such ill-mannered bigotry has no place in a regular social forum. The hatemongers can post their stupid crap elsewhere on the net - there's plenty of options for the numbskulls.

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Voltaire is quoted as having said "I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it".   That is the foundation of free speech.  While I am repulsed by racism in all its forms (my dear wife is often so victimized for her ethnicity) my great fear is this urge to suppress what is currently termed "hate speech" can be turned around and used to suppress any other form of expression a majority finds objectionable.  We become no better than a repressive police state that censors the internet, China for example.  A few years ago there were serious international efforts to ban criticism of religion, calling such criticism "hate speech".   Such a rule could be used to suppress criticism of proposed legislation favoring say one religion's dogmas in a way that suppresses the rights of non-believers.  Religions constantly push to have their rules codified as law.  Is opposing this "hate speech"?  Some might say so.  The antidote to bigotry, racism and religious discrimination are not the suppression of these ideas, but rather reasoned and logical counter arguments.  Let the arguments rage without interference.  Suppressing those ideas on line does nothing to change minds.  In fact it only serves to harden their positions.  Only rational counter arguments and some compassion will change minds.

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Facebook ad boycott campaign to go global, organizers say

Finally people understand how genuine is Fakebook...

Finally the world started getting smarter...

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So these "boycott campaigners" get to decide what is "hate speech" and what isn't?

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Millions of FB users can close their accounts and Zuck and company wouldn't miss a beat. These companies withdrawing their ad dollars will. This is just the start. Here's hoping public pressure cause more to reconsider their spend.

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