Commentary

How Publishers Can Benefit From Facebook Boycott

This month's advertiser boycott of Facebook has dominated news about the media and marketing industries for the past couple of weeks. For publishers, it's an opportunity to tout the advantages they offer to advertisers that fret about brand safety.
And marketers should worry about brand safety, with surveys showing how consumers can form a negative opinion about brands whose ads appear among undesirable content.

As much as social-media companies pay lip service to those concerns, they thrive on people's anger and distress at seeing things they don't like. Those emotions are a sign of "engagement."

The issue has become more prominent since several civil-rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, pooled their resources behind the "Stop Hate for Profit" ad boycott of Facebook, asking the company to do more to remove hate speech. It remains to be seen whether they can really put much financial pressure on a social network that has 8 million advertisers worldwide, a diversified source of revenue that will be hard to crack.
Facebook last week agreed to allow an audit of its procedures to remove hate speech, a process that likely will take months to provide any meaningful insights.
Social-media companies like to talk about how effective they are at removing objectionable content, like porn, terrorist propaganda and hate speech. But they are battling powerful forces, such as foreign governments, that seek to sow social resentment and civil strife among their adversaries.

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Government-backed agencies will never abandon their increasingly sophisticated efforts to create fake user profiles, fake groups and fake news that gets readily shared on social media.

Conversely, publishers can show much greater transparency with content created by real people who can be held accountable for what they write, edit and photograph. Instead of circulating misinformation, publishers can provide higher-quality news, information and entertainment in a brand-safe environment that engages audiences.
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