Verizon Joins Growing Facebook Advertising Boycott

Facebook is facing a growing advertising boycott of its platform over its policies of handling controversial posts.

US phone giant Verizon has become the latest big name to join the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign, and suspend advertising on Facebook.

It joins other firms such as Ben and Jerry’s, which this week also announced it was suspending advertising on Facebook over its hands off policies regarding controversial posts. The North Face and Patagonia have also pulled their advertising spend on the platform.

Facebook boycott

“We’re pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with we’ve done with YouTube and other partners,” John Nitti, chief media officer for Verizon told CNN.

It is understood that the Verizon boycott will cover its advertising on both Facebook and Instagram.

The decision follows an open letter to advertisers Thursday by the Anti-Defamation League. The letter highlighted an example of a Verizon ad that the ADL said appeared beside a conspiracy post on Facebook.

“An advertisement for Verizon appears next to a video from the same QAnon (a conspiracy group) supporters page drawing on hateful and antisemitic rhetoric, warning that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is planning to impose martial law and bring on civil war “just like the days of Hitler,” with concentration camps and coffins at the ready and Americans already being quarantined in militarized districts,” said the ADLL letter.

“We have strict content policies in place and have zero tolerance when they are breached,” CNN quoted Verizon as saying in a statement.

Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“We applaud Verizon for joining this growing fight against hate and bigotry by pausing their advertising on Facebook’s platforms, until they put people and safety over profit,”ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt was quoted as saying. “This is how real change is made.”

Trump posts

Facebook is also under fire over its policy of dealing with political posts.

Earlier this month Facebook took down posts and adverts run by the re-election campaign of US President Donald Trump.

The social networking giant said the offending posts and adverts violated its policy against organised hate, as they included a red inverted triangle, a symbol the Nazis used to identify political prisoners.

Tensions are currently running high between the Trump administration and social networking firms, after Twitter became engaged in a spat with US President Donald Trump last month, when it placed warning fact-checking labels on a couple of his tweets for the first time.

Twitter made the decision after Donald Trump made unsubstantiated claims that postal voting would lead to widespread fraud.

Twitter then doubled down when it also placed another tweet of President Trump behind a warning label where it can only be viewed by clicking on it, because his tweet was ‘glorifying violence’ by threatening to shoot looters.

In response to the Twitter action, the US President first threatened to close down social networking firms, but he then followed up on his threat and signed an executive order against them.

That executive order is an extraordinary attempt to regulate social media platforms. It seeks to introduce legislation that may scrap or weaken a law that has protected big name internet companies such as Facebook and Google, from being responsible for the material posted by their users.

Trump essentially wants to “remove or change” a provision of a law known as section 230 that shields social media companies from liability for content posted by their users.

Section 230 protections have been criticised in the past by other lawmakers on both sides of the pond, who feel that it gives social networking firms a free pass on things like hate speech and content that supports terrorism.

The Trump administration’s proposal would stop tech firms from taking down content arbitrarily, and instead push them to create rules and expectations and to enforce them consistently.

It would stop companies from deleting content it finds “objectionable” and require them to explain their decisions.

And crucially, the proposal would seek to hold tech platforms accountable if they facilitate scams or child exploitation or other violations of federal criminal law.

The US Justice Department is understood to be proposing legislation to end these long-standing protections for social media firms.

Quiz: Think you know all about Facebook?

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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