Facebook Faces Growing Advertising Boycott


Growing boycott of Facebook sees more than 400 brands, including Coca-Cola and Starbucks pulling advertising from the platform

Last minute talks between Facebook and advertisers on Tuesday has failed to halt a one month advertising boycott of the social networking giant by multinational firms.

The advertising boycott of Facebook has been growing rapidly. Last week US phone giant Verizon became the latest big name to join the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign, which claims Facebook is not doing enough to remove hateful content.

And the list of big name multinationals boycotting Facebook continues to grow, with over 400 well known brands pulling their advertising on the platform, including Ben and Jerry’s, Ford, Adidas, HP, Coca Cola, North Face, Unilever and Starbucks.

Last ditch talks

The ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign has been organised by a number of US civil rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League, NAACP and Color of Change.

The campaign comes on the black of the killing of George Floyd in the United States, and the subsequent protests over racism.

In order to avert the boycott, Facebook executives including Carolyn Everson, VP of global business solutions, and Neil Potts, public policy director, held at least two meetings with advertisers on Tuesday, three sources who participated in the calls told Reuters.

But the Facebook executives reportedly offered no new details on how they would tackle hate speech, the sources told Reuters.

Instead, they pointed back to recent press releases, which frustrated advertisers on the calls who believe those plans do not go far enough.

“It’s simply not moving,” one executive at a major ad agency told Reuters.

The ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign has ten demands for Facebook, which includes 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 has already indicated earlier this week it would submit to an audit of its hate speech controls.

One digital ad agency representative who participated in a call on Tuesday told Reuters that 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.

Financial impact

News of the boycott has wiped away $56 billion from Facebook’s market capitalization after an 8 percent drop in its stock last Friday.

But the reality is that the boycott will unlikely have a big financial impact.

This is because the top 100 brands on Facebook in 2019 likely brought in only 6 percent of Facebook’s total $70 billion in annual revenue, according to a Morningstar research note.

Yet the boycott is worrying senior levels of the social networking giant. Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg last week asked to meet with the campaign organizers along with Chief Product Officer Chris Cox.

Cox is also Zuckerberg’s long-time friend, and he returned to Facebook this month after he had resigned in March 2019 after reportedly clashing with Zuckerberg over his plans to unify the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram apps.

But the civil rights groups behind the campaign have insisted that Mark Zuckerberg also attend any meeting, and on Tuesday that the company confirmed that Zuckerberg would join the proposed meeting.

“We’re waiting to hear back and look forward to the opportunity to continue the dialogue,” a spokeswoman reportedly said.

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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