What’s the Facebook Ad Boycott?

Facebook holds the crown for being the most widely used social networking platform on the planet. Boasting a total of 2.6 billion monthly active users in the first quarter of 2020, widespread engagement makes it a key digital marketing channel for businesses advertising across the globe. However, in light of recent protests, Facebook has been criticized for its lack of regulation on content.

A long list of businesses, including household names like Levi’s and Ben & Jerry’s have joined the campaign over the social network’s handling of hate speech and misinformation. The companies partaking in the protest have vowed to pull their ads from Facebook and Instagram for at least the month of July.

The protest came after Facebook decided not to take action on a series of unregulated posts regarding political topics, hate speech, misinformation, and voices that are prejudicial. Facebook and Zuckerberg came under pressure from employees and politicians, but the ad boycott represented a greater purpose to hold Facebook accountable for the voices it amplifies and helps promote.

Facebook, who collected $70 billion in revenue in 2019, makes most of its money through businesses advertising on the platform. Citing the prevalence of unmoderated hate speech and disinformation on the social network, the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP, and Color of Change called for businesses to not advertise on Facebook for the entire month of July.

So far, hundreds of businesses have answered the call and joined the #StopHateForProfit campaign. Outdoor brands The North Face and REI were among the first to hop aboard. However, as the movement has grown, household names such as Verizon, Honda, and Coca-Cola have decided to join the movement and pull their advertisements. A comprehensive list can be found at StopHateForProfit.org.

Facebook’s brand experience has been ripe with issues. As the platform has grown, it’s transformed from a fun way to connect with your friends and relatives to a public forum where news is dispersed, voices are amplified, and influence is undeniable. 

Facebook has been quick to defend its position in the midst of this movement. They have made a stride towards highlighting the progress they have made at combating hate speech and misinformation. “We have absolutely no incentive to tolerate hate speech,” said Nick Clegg, Facebook’s VP for Public Affairs. “We don’t like it, our users don’t like it, advertisers understandably don’t like it. We benefit from positive human connection–not hate.”

Mark Zuckerberg will need to strive to be a Brand Champion in the coming weeks. Last week, he stated, “We’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue, or to any percent of our revenue.”

As of July 7th, Facebook partook in a Zoom meeting, including Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League; Mark Zuckerberg; COO Sheryl Sandberg; chief product officer Chris Cox, and members of the Facebook policy team. 

The campaign had called on participating brands to ask for 10 changes that touch on seemingly every aspect of how Facebook operates. The list includes demands that Facebook hires a C-Suite executive with “deep” civil rights experience; pledges to do regular, independent audits of hate and misinformation; remove public and private groups focused on hate or violent conspiracies and stop the recommendation/reach of such groups; and gives all moderators anti-bias and hate-related training in the next 90 days. The group also wants Facebook to ban political ads with blatant lies, which Facebook has previously defended the policy, saying it does not want to censor political speech.

“We had 10 demands and literally, we went through the 10 and didn’t get commitments or timeframes or clear outcomes,” said Greenblatt. While Zuckerberg came to the meeting expressing appreciation for the opportunity to hear the nuances of the groups’ position.

However, Zuckerberg failed to acknowledge a greater responsibility of adopting practices that aren’t harmful to the social community they’ve cultivated. Of course, free speech is a right many of us enjoy in America, but it’s important to note Facebook is a global entity that profits off of these messages while spreading their reach. These aren’t messages heard in a vacuum where everyone’s voice holds the same weight. These are messages that are promoted, amplified, and sure to influence the experience of many users.

Although a majority of Facebook’s ad revenue comes from small/medium-sized businesses and their overall profit won’t be majorly impacted, the boycott has begun a conversation that’s worth having. Subscribe to our blog to stay up to date on the #StopHateForProfit Facebook Ad Boycott, as well as other industry news. 

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Works Cited

Murphy, Mike. “Zuckerberg Said to Say of Facebook Ad Boycott: ‘All These Advertisers Will Be Back’ Soon Enough.” MarketWatch, MarketWatch, 4 July 2020, www.marketwatch.com/story/zuckerberg-on-facebook-ad-boycott-all-these-advertisers-will-be-back-soon-enough-2020-07-01.

Stop Hate for Profit, Anti-Defamation League, 2020, www.stophateforprofit.org/.

Wong, Queenie. “Why Big Brands Are Turning Their Backs on Facebook.” CNET, CNET, 7 July 2020, www.cnet.com/news/facebook-ad-boycott-how-big-businesses-hit-pause-on-hate/.

Yurieff, Kaya. “The Facebook Ad Boycott Is Starting to Rattle Investors.” CNN, Cable News Network, 29 June 2020, www.cnn.com/2020/06/29/tech/facebook-ad-boycott-stock/index.html.

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