Chris Mills Rodrigo, The Hill, June 24, 2020
Facebook is coming under mounting pressure from major companies to rein in hateful content on the platform or risk further loss of ad revenue.
In the past week, companies like Patagonia, The North Face, Ben & Jerry’s and REI have joined the Stop Hate for Profit campaign organized by civil rights groups in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd.
Organizers of the Facebook boycott acknowledge that while previous efforts to change Facebook’s platform have fallen short, the national focus on racial injustice has put a spotlight on all aspects of life, including social media.
“I think the country is reckoning with this legacy of systemic racism in a way that it hadn’t before. You see this playing out in the public square [and] it seems to be playing out in the political arena,” Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), told The Hill in an interview Tuesday. “That environment, I think, creates the conditions in which this advertising pause has so much appeal.”
The ADL, NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense launched the Stop Hate for Profit campaign last week, calling on companies to pull their advertising dollars from Facebook for the month of July.
The groups have held private discussions with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg for years about how to improve the way the platform deals with racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic, white supremacist and otherwise violent content. The decision to band together and seek support from advertisers was sparked by Facebook’s handling of the anti-police brutality protests following Floyd’s death.
“There’s been a lot of misinformation,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense.
The campaign comes at a time when Facebook is under internal and external pressure over its handling of President Trump’s rhetoric, especially his posts that are seen as glorifying violence. Zuckerberg has defended the platform’s hands-off approach, but that position has come under increasing fire as other tech companies like Twitter have been more aggressive about attaching warning labels to the president’s comments.
The groups behind the current boycott are calling for Facebook to, among other things, create a threshold for harm where users facing harassment can speak directly with an employee, an internal mechanism for removing ads labeled as misinformation and a system for flagging content in private groups.
Although the campaign was just launched last week, it has already received more than a dozen corporate supporters.
Outerwear companies, including Eddie Bauer and Arc’teryx, were some of the first to join, pledging to stop buying advertisements on Facebook and Instagram for July.
Web browsing company Mozilla, shipping company Local Postal, film distributor Magnolia Pictures and global freelancing platform Upwork have also all joined the campaign.
Greenblatt suggested more companies are likely to add their names to the list.
David Kirkpatrick, author of “The Facebook Effect” and founder of Techonomy, called the potential of the boycott campaign “historic.”
“I think there are a small number of really globally influential advertisers that would gain the attention of Facebook in a way that nothing else ever has,” he said on Tuesday.
Facebook’s massive ad revenue is another challenge for the campaign. The company reported nearly $70 billion in revenue in 2019, more than 90 percent of which came from advertising.