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Facebook frustrates advertisers as boycott over hate speech kicks off

27 Comments
By Sheila Dang and Katie Paul

Advertisements for more than 400 brands including Coca-Cola and Starbucks are due to vanish from Facebook on Wednesday, after the failure of last-ditch talks to stop a boycott over hate speech on the site.

U.S. civil rights groups have enlisted the multinationals to help pressure the social media giant into taking concrete steps to block hate speech in the wake of the death of George Floyd and amid a national reckoning over racism..

Facebook executives including Carolyn Everson, vice president of global business solutions, and Neil Potts, public policy director, held at least two meetings with advertisers on Tuesday, the eve of the planned one-month boycott, three sources who participated in the calls told Reuters.

But the executives offered no new details on how they would tackle hate speech, the sources said. Instead, they pointed back to recent press releases, frustrating advertisers on the calls who believe those plans do not go far enough.

"It's simply not moving," said one executive at a major ad agency of the conversations.

Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg has agreed to meet with the organizers of the boycott, a spokeswoman said late Tuesday.

U.S. civil rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP and Color of Change started the "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign after the death of Floyd, a Black man who died under the knee of a white police officer last month.

The groups outlined 10 demands for Facebook including allowing people who experience severe harassment to speak with a Facebook employee and giving refunds to brands whose ads show up next to offensive content that is later removed.

Facebook said earlier this week it would submit to an audit of its hate speech controls, adding to plans to label newsworthy content that would otherwise violate its policies, following similar practices at other social media platforms such as Twitter Inc.

One digital ad agency representative who participated in a call on Tuesday said Facebook executives referred repeatedly to the audit, without offering additional concessions.

Facebook executives have reached out to chief executives, board members and chief marketing officers of major advertisers to talk them out of the boycott, two people briefed on the discussions told Reuters. All the sources requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record.

ADVERTISING TEST

The boycott will be a test for advertisers on how to reach billions of consumers without relying on the largest social media platform in the world, an executive at a major ad agency said.

Companies that run ads in order to promote their brand image rather than to make direct sales are less beholden to Facebook. Many of these, including the multinational advertisers who have joined up with the boycott, will begin to plot how they can achieve the same goals without Facebook, the executive said.

For Facebook, the boycott is unlikely to have a big financial impact. The top 100 brands on Facebook in 2019 likely brought in only 6% of Facebook's total $70 billion in annual revenue, according to a Morningstar research note citing Pathmatics data, which measures most types of advertising on the platform. Facebook said last year its top 100 advertisers accountED for less than 20% of total ad revenue.

News of the boycott wiped away $56 billion from Facebook's market capitalization after an 8% drop in its stock on Friday. But shares recovered 3% on Tuesday and are actually trading 8% higher year to date.

Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg last week asked to meet with the campaign organizers along with Chief Product Officer Chris Cox, Zuckerberg's long-time friend, who returned to Facebook this month after resigning over the company's direction last year.

The civil rights groups insisted Zuckerberg also be at the table, with Anti-Defamation League Chief Executive Jonathan Greenblatt noting that as CEO, chairman and the company's largest shareholder, "he is the ultimate authority."

The Facebook spokeswoman said late Tuesday that the company had confirmed that Zuckerberg would join the proposed meeting.

"We're waiting to hear back and look forward to the opportunity to continue the dialogue,” she said.

© Thomson Reuters 2020.

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

27 Comments
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Good. Now take it to Twitter and Youtube.

3 ( +11 / -8 )

The economies in Russia, China, Iran and elsewhere could take a hit if those nation's government employees paid to spread fake news on Facebook and other media outlets lose jobs.

-4 ( +5 / -9 )

The very effort by an "open" public medium to "decide" what can and cannot be posted based upon one particular philosophy or value judged by the biases and preferences and threats of a group or organization or even an institution makes it a "closed" and non-public but a "private" medium. The very fact that Facebook even asks its advertisers to "consider" such a move by itself makes it a profit oriented non-public business. If it takes "sides" politically then it is a political publication and not a public medium of communication.

Sadly because it is using the internet and have access to all personal and public information that even the government does not have to get and "control" all communication and information that flows through its system without oversight.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

I am frustrated by the amount of advertising on Facebook these days. It seems that every other post in my feed is an advert of some kind. Facebook is no longer what it set out to be. I miss the old days when it was commercial free and people actually posted personal photos and updates, instead of spreading trashy memes, political venom, and fake news. Seems its time for an alternative.

18 ( +20 / -2 )

I am frustrated by the amount of advertising on Facebook these days. It seems that every other post in my feed is an advert of some kind. Facebook is no longer what it set out to be.

Agreed.

Facebook is trash now. It used to be a very useful way for me to keep in contact with old friends and family who live far away as we'd all share updates on our lives, etc. Now though about half the stuff in my feed is "promoted content" that is mostly crap, and the stuff posted by actual friends is of way lower quality than what it used to be (mostly memes and that sort of stuff now). I think the latter is because everyone, including me, has become way less willing to share photos or other personal stuff on the platform owing to privacy and other concerns about how that data will be used. I used to be able to keep track of when my friends got married, had kids, and other life events on FB but now nobody posts that stuff, including me. So its basically a useless platform that I check way less often and then only because there are a few friends I can only reach there if I need to.

Add the "Its OK to post racist stuff" policy and it really is just a garbage platform that will probably shrivel and die over time as users and advertisers flock elsewhere.

8 ( +12 / -4 )

Kicking them off social media is an important step.

More important, and likely more difficult, is purging these degenerates from the military and law enforcement, where they are dug in like ticks.

What they stand for is not a "difference of opinion", it is criminal, and should not be tolerated by our Society.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

Too much control and power in the hands of these media giants now and it is misused and abused !

Be great for an unbiased open and tolerant alternative to come along.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Whenever I get a promoted post, I block it. My FB cleaned up quite a bit.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Not a fan of FB. Hope they go bankrupt.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

Back in the 50's/60's secular liberals, having been oppressed by the dominant religious conservatives, cried 'freedom of speech!' Now the tables are turned.

History shows that once the oppressed minority win their freedom and become the majority, they tend to become the new oppressors. It's human nature, unfortunately. May God have mercy on us all.

-5 ( +6 / -11 )

Read Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act; FB and Twitter have bent its language as far as they can and are on the verge of losing their status as just an independent platform, so FB made the prudent business decision (lose some advertisers, but still stay relevant) not to block certain content that some foaming-at-the-mouth liberals call hate speech.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

Back in the 50's/60's secular liberals, having been oppressed by the dominant religious conservatives, cried 'freedom of speech!' Now the tables are turned.

Exactly. This coming election is not about democrat/republican, it is about authoritarianism/freedom of speech.

I am astonished that the so-called left goes in full bore for censorship and thought control, and is still called "liberal". There is nothing liberal about fascism.

-6 ( +6 / -12 )

And some even go to this extreme https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=592717241381883

-2 ( +3 / -5 )

I loathe all social networking.

How about boycotting all forms of SNS.

They’ve brought more negatives into our society than positives.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Facebook is beginning its death spiral. I don't know many people who use it these days, except if they haven't deleted their account and it's still linked to their Twitter feed or something. It had it's day... probably longer than it should have been.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

Facebook works fine if you let it. It's a soft target for those who, ironically, just want to be heard and seen on the internet. The internet hasn't dumbed down society. The dumb have dumbed down the internet.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Facebook? Isn't that like 4-chan, but with adverts, or something?

0 ( +3 / -3 )

I'm wondering if criticism of the Israeli governments policies towards Palestinians and land annexation will be considered hate speech. That will be the final straw for many.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

its just about the election. Liberals think hate speech is anything that they dont want to hear. including support for our President. Thats hate speech to them.

-3 ( +4 / -7 )

Kicking them off social media is an important step.

More important, and likely more difficult, is purging these degenerates from the military and law enforcement, where they are dug in like ticks.

What they stand for is not a "difference of opinion", it is criminal, and should not be tolerated by our Society.

Absolutely. Let's get a spies and youth league started. We all need to be on the same page when it comes to thinking. No way is difference of opinion to be tolerated--and we'll be the judge of whether or not it qualifies as opinion in the first place.

And it is criminal to have a different opinion--if that's what it really is--and we need to train the children and our neighbors to inform on those who dare to stray from what we consider appropriate.

And yes... purge. A very apropos selection of words.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Facebook should just add an "I'm offended" button next to like button. Then Facebook management can review the post, and if the number of offended is above zero, they can deem it hate speech and take it down.

0 ( +6 / -6 )

Don't leave it to the advertisers. Quit Facebook yourself. It's loss of users that really hurts.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

@Paul14

As long as you do not "click" on adds you remain somewhat transparent and can still hurt FB while keeping in touch with your friends around the globe.

Of course FB still generate big data with any activities you have but that the price to pay.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Facebook frustrates advertisers as boycott over hate speech kicks off

I very hope all Fakebook users also get smarter and boycott it!!!

Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg are real scumbags who take advantage of billions of naive stupid users! Boycott Fakebook! Be smart!

Don't forget that Zuk helped the moron Trump to become President. Get rid of Fakebook! Trash Fakebook!

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

I haven't used Facebook in a long time. As soon as they started to require a phone number to "recover your account", meaning spam the living daylights out of your phone, I left. Having said that I have no room in my heart for any form of censorship. Who determines what qualifies as "hate speech" and what gives them the power to censor someone else's writing? A founding principal of the US is freedom of speech, which includes freedom of the press. The free competition of ideas is a great strength of liberal democracies. That includes offensive speech. If you don't like what someone said, present a rational counter argument. Put your own ideas fourth. Always keep mind that at some point in the future your ideas might be viewed as offensive to the almighty majority.   The tables can turn. Guarantees of free speech prevent arbitrary censorship by the majority, or by an authoritarian government. As Voltaire is quoted as saying "I may disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it". Wise words indeed.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

For Facebook, the boycott is unlikely to have a big financial impact. The top 100 brands on Facebook in 2019 likely brought in only 6% of Facebook's total $70 billion in annual revenue, according to a Morningstar research note citing Pathmatics data, which measures most types of advertising on the platform. Facebook said last year its top 100 advertisers accountED for less than 20% of total ad revenue.

It appears unlikely that Facebook will be hurt by a boycott, but advocating another boycott does give the censorship-now/political power-grabbers crowd something to do.

Censorship is just another technique used by bullies to prevent free speech. The answer to hate speech is more free speech, not less.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Facebook is beginning its death spiral.

It is and it already has morphed into a seriously anti-social network.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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