Facebook Struggles To Contain Ad Boycott

With more than 400 brands committing to a Facebook boycott, the social giant is struggling to explain its position on hateful and hostile content.

“Facebook does not profit from hate,” Nick Clegg, the company’s vice president of global affairs and communications, writes in a newly published letter. “There is no incentive for us to do anything but remove it.”



Clegg also insisted Facebook takes a “zero tolerance approach” to hateful posts on Facebook and Instagram.

That claim might come as a surprise to critics who have taken issue with Facebook’s unwillingness to rein in President Trump’s more inflammatory posts.

Cofounder-CEO Mark Zuckerberg originally argued that letting the President bypass Facebook’s standard content policies was best, “because ultimately, accountability for those in positions of power can only happen when their speech is scrutinized out in the open.”

Last week, however, Zuckerberg said Facebook would soon begin labeling posts from influential figures that violate its content policies, and no longer allow “newsworthiness exemptions” for posts from public figures that incite violence or suppress voting.

Under these new terms, Trump most likely would not have been allowed to use his Facebook account to endorse the shooting of people looting businesses in response to the killing of George Floyd last month.

However, Clegg was unclear about Facebook’s current position on Trump’s posts.

“We understand that many of our critics are angry about the inflammatory rhetoric President Trump has posted on our platform and others, and want us to be more aggressive in removing his speech,” he admitted in his Wednesday post.

Yet, seemingly sidestepping the issue of Facebook’s content policy, Clegg suggested that people hold the President accountable on Election Day. 

“As a former politician myself, I know the only way to hold the powerful to account is ultimately through the ballot box,” he said. (Clegg formerly served as the head of a liberal political party in the United Kingdom.)

Trying to appease advertisers, Facebook also said this week it was enlisting the help of the Media Rating Council (MRC) to evaluate its partner and content monetization policies, and the brand-safety controls it makes available to advertisers.

According to a report in Reuters, Facebook executives also met with top brand partners on Tuesday in an effort to avoid the boycott. Yet, largely under the banner of the #StopHateForProfit campaign, the number of brands vowing to temporarily suspect advertising on Facebook and Instagram continues to grow.

Scheduled to begin on Wednesday, most brands participating in the boycott have committed to suspending U.S. advertising on Facebook for a month. Specific plans vary by advertiser. Unilever, for one, is suspending all U.S. advertising Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for the rest of the year.


2 comments about "Facebook Struggles To Contain Ad Boycott".
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  1. PJ Lehrer from NYU, July 2, 2020 at 1:39 p.m.

    Don't be so sure any of these marketers will ever come back.  I have yet to see a real FB success story.

  2. Charles Pierce from Private replied, July 4, 2020 at 10:56 a.m.

    This story, and general media coverage, conflates 2 issues and a deeper dive and thoughtfulness is needed to be more precise.

    ISSUE#1: What is FB's policy on "hateful" posts and do they follow it?

       This is a no win as defining "hate" is subjective, especially as you get away from the obvious cases. I would say FB generally seems to have a significant effort ALREADY in place to remove hateful "speech".

    ISSUE#2: Companies and FB users need to think about their attitudes to PUBLIC and PRIVATE speech on the platform, and also PAID "Advertising" SPEECH.

       a) Can users do "hateful" communication to each other in PRIVAE, as if you and I were talking among friends?

       b) Can users do "hateful" communication that is a PUBLIC POST (unpaid) where anyone might see it?

      President Trump falls into here, as does anyone who makes a public statement.

    IMPORTANT POINT: If FB should "censor" free public speech by a public figure, should CNN , MSNBC, and FOX stop covering public speech by the President?

    Fox promotes false narratives all the time, while MSNBC calls out public statements by the President. WHY isn't anyone looking at major media who control significant communication channels to broad swaths of the Public

       c) If FB takes money to allow distribution of "speech" (ads, political campaigns, public messaging) , should it be absolutely responsible to do analysis of the "speech" and make a corporate decision on allowing the "speech"? And, if they do don't create the "speech", or pay someone to give them the speech content, then what responsibility do they have....they just control a distribution pipe.

       Many people might suggest that any payment received for distribution should have a higher standard. Which is a defensible position. But, controlling unpaid public posts based on content is always going to be a losing position as many people will be unhappy no matter what they do.


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