The #StopHateForProfit boycott organized by civil rights groups against Facebook advertising may not serve to make a dent in the tech giant’s massive revenue, at least in the short term — as various analysts continue to point out.
But it’s clearly worrying CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his senior executives, who are now reaching out to major ad industry players to try to calm their growing concerns about supporting a platform that has become associated with spreading racist, violence-inciting hate messaging from President Donald Trump and right-wing extremists.
Zuckerberg, along with COO Sheryl Sandberg, this week talked with members of Facebook’s client council, including executives from companies such as Unilever, Anheuser-Busch, Nestle, Dentsu and Omnicom Media Group, reports Business Insider, citing unnamed knowledgeable sources.
The Facebook leaders told the group that they are reviewing their policies and decision-making practices about content and ads, including political advertising.
In addition, on a call with about 200 advertisers on Tuesday, Neil Potts, Facebook’s head of trust and safety, was asked why companies should risk their brands’ reputations by staying on the platform, CNN Business reported Wednesday evening, also based on unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
Potts acknowledged that “there is a trust deficit” during the call, which was set up by the Interactive Advertising Bureau of Canada, adding: "You try to make a decision and people disagree and maybe that builds that deficit even deeper."
His comments were first reported by the Financial Times.
Asked about the call, a Facebook spokesman, Andy Stone, told CNN Business: "It's normal for us to have conversations with advertisers and discuss issues, including policy matters. This is something we do routinely and will keep doing."
Zuckerberg has become increasingly mired in controversy since he declared last October that Facebook’s platforms would take a hands-off policy toward political ads and posts, even if they include lies.
The pressure began to intensify when Twitter soon after announced it would not take political advertising. The controversy has heated up in recent weeks, since Twitter began to flag Trump’s most dangerous tweets — e.g., “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” — while Facebook did nothing.
In mid June, former Vice President and presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has launched a “MoveFastFixIt” petition and social media campaign demanding that Facebook take aggressive steps to stop the spread of misinformation and disinformation around the upcoming elections.
On June 17, the NAACP, Anti-Defamation League and other civil rights groups announced their ad boycott. Advertisers that have publicly said they are boycotting Facebook include T-Mobile, Ben & Jerry’s, Eddie Bauer, Magnolia Pictures, Patagonia, The North Face, REI, and Upwork. Digital agency 360i, part of Dentsu Group, has also encouraged its clients — which include Oreo, JC Penney, Coca-Cola, Diageo and Bravo — to join the boycott.
The next day, Facebook removed several ads placed by Trump’s re-election campaign that featured Nazi symbols, citing the platform’s policy against organized hate.
In early June, Zuckerberg indicated, in a memo to increasingly restive employees, that Facebook would review its “policies allowing discussion and threats of state use of force to see if there are any amendments we should adopt.”
The company’s recent attempts to diffuse criticism have included moving to ban ads from state-controlled media outlets, and enabling Facebook users to opt out of viewing political ads, as well as launching efforts to encourage voting.