Coca-Cola, Others, Pause Social Ads Hours After Facebook Policy Change

Although Facebook on Friday announced content and advertising policy changes hours after Unilever — the world’s largest advertiser — announced that it is suspending advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S., the cascade of major advertisers “pausing” social media advertising continues.

On Friday evening, Coca-Cola announced that it is suspending all social media advertising globally for at least 30 days, starting July 1.

Also late Friday, Dockers and Levi’s said they are suspending advertising on Facebook and Instagram, and Hershey said it will cut spending on those two platforms by a third through the end of the year.

Facebook’s stock dropped 8% in Friday trading, following Unilever’s announcement. Unilever has spent about $11.8 million on Facebook ads in the U.S. this year, according to Pathmatics, which estimated that the company last year spent just over $42 million on the platform.

Coca-Cola insisted that its stance did not signify that it is joining the #StopHateForProfit boycott of Facebook advertising.

Coca-Cola CEO and Chairman James Quincey posted a brief statement on the company’s blog (above) announcing its decision: “There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media. The Coca-Cola Company will pause paid advertising on all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days. We will take this time to reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed. We also expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners.”

#StopHateForProfit, started just 10 days ago, on June 17, by civil rights groups including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, asked advertisers to boycott Facebook advertising for the month of July, in protest of the company’s refusal to implement stronger policies and measures to stop the spread of hate content on Facebook.

Large advertisers that had joined the boycott prior to Unilever’s move on Friday include T-Mobile, Ben & Jerry’s, Eddie Bauer, Magnolia Pictures, Patagonia, The North Face, REI, Upwork, and Verizon. According to a running list posted by Sleeping Giants, about 90 advertisers were on board as of June 26.  

Digital agency 360i, part of Dentsu Group, reportedly began early on to encourage its clients — which include Coca-Cola, as well as Oreo, JC Penney, Diageo and Bravo — to join the boycott.

The policy changes announced by Facebook Inc. CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a post are limited, but could have significant political ramifications for the company — particularly given Zuckerberg’s refusal up to now to flag or remove even false and inflammatory content and political ads, including those from President Donald Trump and extremist groups.

The changes include what amounts to a partial reversal of the company’s stance not to remove posts deemed "newsworthy" even if they would normally violate its policies against organized hate movements and inciting violence.

That rationale was used when Facebook refused to remove Trump’s “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” declaration, for example — even though its own employees protested the decision not to follow the platform's standard policies.

Now, Facebook will start “labeling” such policy-violating but "newsworthy" content, according to Zuckerberg, who has been accused by critics of pandering to Trump’s wishes in a climate in which big tech companies are being investigated for antitrust and other possible wrongdoing. Facebook has denied that its policies are influenced by political or economic agendas.

“We'll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what's acceptable in our society — but we'll add a prompt to tell people that the content they're sharing may violate our policies,” Zuckerberg wrote about the new policy changes.

“To clarify one point,” he continued, “there is no newsworthiness exemption to content that incites violence or suppresses voting. Even if a politician or government official says it, if we determine that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, we will take that content down. Similarly, there are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I'm announcing here today.”

He also announced specific, limited changes to Facebook’s thus-far hands-off policy regarding the content of political ads.

The changes appear to attempt to address some of the issues raised by the #StopHateForProfit movement.

But they do not extend to lies and distortions in ads from political groups or politicians that target other political groups or politicians in ways that do not verge into labeling them as a threat to others based specifically on their racial, religious, or sexual orientations or citizenship status.

“Today we're prohibiting a wider category of hateful content in ads,” wrote Zuckerberg. “Specifically, we're expanding our ads policy to prohibit claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others.

“We're also expanding our policies to better protect immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from ads suggesting these groups are inferior or expressing contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them.”

Zuckerberg also wrote that many of the changes he was announcing came “directly from feedback from the civil rights community and reflect months of work with our civil rights auditors.”

1 comment about "Coca-Cola, Others, Pause Social Ads Hours After Facebook Policy Change".
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  1. PJ Lehrer from NYU, June 29, 2020 at 10:58 a.m.

    Of course the danger is that advertisers discover dropping FB has no effect on their business at all...

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