Facebook to label ‘harmful’ posts, but ad boycott widens -- Coca Cola latest to halt advertising
Despite Facebook's announcement on changes to its policies around hate speech, companies continue to pull advertising from the platform and Coca Cola is the latest to join others in boycotting advertising on it.
Facebook Inc has said it will start to label potentially harmful posts that it leaves up because of their news value. This comes as the social media giant is under pressure to improve how it moderates the content on its platform, including posts by US President Donald Trump.
The policy changes come during a growing ad boycott campaign, called “Stop Hate for Profit”, that was started by several US civil rights groups after the death of African American man George Floyd, to pressure the company to act on hate speech and misinformation.
The organisers, which include Color of Change and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, have said Facebook allows "racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform".
Amid the row, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a live-streamed company townhall on Friday that Facebook would also ban ads that claim people from groups based on race, religion, sexual orientation or immigration status are a threat to physical safety or health. He also said the firm will attach a label to "problematic" content that falls outside of those categories.
But Zuckerberg's announcements, however, did not halt companies’ demands for change amid the backlash over how Facebook handles hate speech online.
On Friday, Coca-Cola, Japanese carmaker Honda Motor Co Ltd’s, chocolate brand Hershey, and the apparel companies Lululemon and Jansport joined the more than 100 brands boycotting advertising on Facebook.
Zuckerberg’s address fell short, said Rashad Robinson, president of civil rights group Color Of Change, which is one of the groups behind the boycott campaign. “What we’ve seen in today’s address from Mark Zuckerberg is a failure to wrestle with the harms FB has caused on our democracy & civil rights,” Robinson tweeted.
“If this is the response he’s giving to major advertisers withdrawing millions of dollars from the company, we can’t trust his leadership.”
What we've seen in today's address from Mark Zuckerberg is a failure to wrestle with the harms FB has caused on our democracy & civil rights. If this is the response he's giving to major advertisers withdrawing millions of dollars from the company, we can't trust his leadership.— Rashad Robinson (@rashadrobinson) June 26, 2020
Zuckerberg's address was 11 minutes of wasted opportunity to commit to change. I hope companies advertising on Facebook were watching - if they want to put their money where their mouth is on racial justice, then it's time to #StopHateForProfit. pic.twitter.com/oz2rLvHBxF— Rashad Robinson (@rashadrobinson) June 26, 2020
Consumer goods giant Unilever also added its name to the list, citing a "polarized election period" in the US. The maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry's ice cream said it would halt Twitter, Facebook and Instagram advertising in the US "at least" through 2020.
"Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society," it said. "We will revisit our current position if necessary."
In a speech on Friday, Zuckerberg defended the firm's record of taking down hate speech. He pointed to a European Commission report this month that found Facebook removed 86% of hate speech last year, up from 82.6%.
Micro-blogging platform Twitter has already taken some similar steps, including banning advertisements from politicians and adding labels and warnings to some kinds of content,including tweets by Trump.
"We have developed policies and platform capabilities designed to protect and serve the public conversation, and as always, are committed to amplifying voices from under-represented communities and marginalized groups," said Twitter executive Sarah Personette.
Shares of Facebook and Twitter both fell more than 7% on Friday.
Unilever’s joining of the boycott put significant pressure on Facebook, said Nicole Perrin, the principal analyst at the market research firm eMarketer. As one of the largest advertisers in the world, its moves could influence other brand advertisers to follow its lead, said Perrin.
In a statement, a Facebook spokeswoman pointed to its civil rights audit and investments in Artificial Intelligence that allow it to find and take action on hate speech.
“We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups, GARM, and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight,” she said, referring to the Global Alliance for Responsible Media.