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Is the company vulnerable to increased scrutiny
Facebook’s top two officials will be meeting today with civil rights groups who have successfully organized the largest boycott of the platform’s advertising system to date. The boycott has been using the #StopHateforProfit hastag, and has been led by organizations like the ADL, NAACP, Color for Change, and Common Sense Media among others.
We're backing #StopHateForProfit, & urging other civil society groups to join too. This is a pivotal moment in the global struggle against hate speech & misinformation – including climate denial. Your support can help us reach a tipping point: https://t.co/n2EivyTlsa
— Stop Funding Hate (@StopFundingHate) June 29, 2020
These groups have capitalized on the current political climate to pressure advertisers into reducing or eliminating their spending on ads on Facebook.
Today’s meetings come after a series of actions the company has taken to appease both advertisers and campaign organizers, none of which have been effective. Company officials have been calling, writing, and pleading behind the scenes with major brands who have joined this boycott.
Facebook execs will meet this morning with groups that organized ad boycott. The execs will seek to address groups' concerns but will not announce any major policy changes, sources familiar tell me >> https://t.co/6swC68ek7C Also, a first look at post coming from Sheryl Sandberg.
— Dylan Byers (@DylanByers) July 7, 2020
However how much of this is public relations, and how much of it is driven by business concerns?
totally. facebook, well known for doing the right thing…
it just coincided with an 800+ advertiser boycott, outrage from staff, alums, CZI, investors, etc. https://t.co/NcRRJAWt3f
— Jesse Lehrich (@JesseLehrich) July 7, 2020
Is this hurting Facebook’s bottom line, or are they so large that a temporary or even permanent reduction in advertising will not be enough to pressure them to change?
— Tom Fishburne (@tomfishburne) July 5, 2020
Should this boycott have focused on the platform as a whole rather than just the advertising business?
Facebook lost $56 billion on Friday after advertisers said they would boycott.
Four market days later, it's all back. In fact, the market value is higher than before the drop. And Mark Zuckerberg changed nothing.
Losing ads won't stop Facebook. Facebook needs to lose YOU.
— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) July 2, 2020
What’s the boycott about?
Facebook boycott is giving voice to complaints that social media disproportionately stifles Black users while failing to protect them from harassment. https://t.co/0SMc8HaSM3
— USA TODAY Tech (@usatodaytech) July 7, 2020
T’Nae Parker, a Black activist who’s been on Facebook since college, almost always has the app open on her phone, spending hours each day helping her community in South Carolina – that is, unless Facebook cuts off her access.
By her count, Parker has had her posts removed and her account locked in a punishment commonly referred to as “Facebook jail” 27 times for speaking out against racism or the complicity of white people in anti-Blackness.
“Shutting us out is basically saying ‘Shut up,’” Parker, 36, says.
Now, a Facebook advertising boycott is giving voice to years of complaints that the social media giant disproportionately stifles Black users while failing to protect them from harassment.
What makes this particular campaign both interesting and relevant is that it is focusing on the social and political impact of the platform, and the biases that tend to impact already marginalized users. This includes hate speech, political polarization, and the broader impact on democracy.
Our campaign is working. Use your voice to tell Facebook that their policies and enforcement on hate speech, incitement to violence, and misinformation are not only weak, they disproportionately harm BIPOC and LGBTQ+ users. #StopHateForProfit https://t.co/i3U2RGPKDR pic.twitter.com/a2BvX9K5Kd
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) July 5, 2020
The campaign has been framed in a way that makes it easy for companies large and small to get on the bandwagon, not just because they oppose hate speech and racism, but also because they oppose Facebook’s power and consolidation of their industry.
By joining the Facebook boycott, companies that had already planned to reduce their advertising spending were able to get "a better boost for their brands than an ad may provide, without paying anything," @jswartz reports: https://t.co/ymHozbi3aY
— Jeremy Olshan (@jolshan) July 1, 2020
This may give the ad industry a chance to rethink their strategy rather than just chasing after platforms they can’t influence or rely upon.
"The way you allocate your media spend, where you put your ads, talks about your company," he said. "We moved from brand safety to, I think, societal safety."
— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) July 3, 2020
Loerke says he believes operators in the ecosystem, including the social media platforms, have an interest in mitigating hateful speech and content. But the way it’s done now, he says, is unsustainable and inefficient, with platforms, agency holding companies and brand owners each with their own policies, values and tools.
“That leads to plenty of operators which operate in good faith, but a system which is simply unscalable and inefficient,” he said. “The only way to address this is to find a system and to put in place a system which is across the ecosystem, which will allow brand owners to make informed choices about where they put their ads.”
He said for that to happen, four things need to be changed: Content needs standardization, so there is alignment, for instance, in the definition of “hate speech” across entities; data needs to be collected about incidents of hate speech and other harmful content in a unified way; third-party verification is needed instead of self-reported data; and tools that operate across the ecosystem that let brands act according to their values.
This point about third party verification is important. Facebook needs oversight.
They don't have a people-centric way:' Facebook ad boycott is reigniting its dysfunctional relationship with advertisers https://t.co/8Wm4LNr48X
— Digiday (@Digiday) July 7, 2020
That so many advertisers are on a temporary hiatus from Facebook says more about the complicated relationship between both groups, than it does their stance on hate speech. If the boycott is temporary then damage to Facebook’s revenue is also temporary. Therefore, this boycott is less about hurting Facebook and more about advertisers trying to exert their influence over the social network’s policymaking. Doing so now comes at relatively little cost to these businesses given its happening during a slow second-quarter trading period a recession when ad costs are were already being cut.
“This boycott has been brewing for a while now because you have technology platforms, particularly Facebook, that don’t take our concerns seriously, said the head of media at a CPG advertiser who was unauthorized to talk to Digiday. “They can host as many meetings with trade bodies as they want, but if nothing ever changes then it creates a very frustrating scenario for advertisers.”
Similarly this boycott is also bringing in language we’ve used here, that recognizes that the company’s power is different and arguably unprecedented.
Will the #StopHateForProfit ads boycott against Facebook work? My piece on why it has to. The power it has is extraordinary & like nothing the world has ever seen before. The boycott a last-ditch effort to restrain an isolated rogue statehttps://t.co/oSYFwvHPv2
— Carole Cadwalladr (@carolecadwalla) July 5, 2020
There is no power on this earth that is capable of holding Facebook to account. No legislature, no law enforcement agency, no regulator. Congress has failed. The EU has failed. When the Federal Trade Commission fined it a record $5bn for its role in the Cambridge Analytica scandal, its stock price actually went up.
Which is what makes this moment so interesting and, possibly, epochal. If the boycott of Facebook by some of the world’s biggest brands – Unilever, Coca-Cola, Starbucks – succeeds, it will be because it has targeted the only thing that Facebook understands: its bottom line. And if it fails, that will be another sort of landmark.
Because this is a company that facilitated an attack on a US election by a foreign power, that live-streamed a massacre then broadcast it to millions around the world, and helped incite a genocide.
I’ll say that again. It helped incite a genocide. A United Nations report says the use of Facebook played a “determining role” in inciting hate and violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya, which has seen tens of thousands die and hundreds of thousands flee for their lives.
The reasons or motivations to join this boycott are numerous, but will it be enough to sway or change this growing empire?
Mark Zuckerberg’s private comments lay bare the truth that Facebook would rather protect racists, antisemites and profits over people. https://t.co/zdMTBzubCz
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) July 2, 2020
Today’s meetings are the sort that politicians engage in to defuse a crisis. They’ll be coupled with a “civil rights audit” that will acknowledge shortcomings while also proposing actions that will distract from Facebook’s power and instead make it seem as if they’re taking action.
Will the campaign organizers take this bait? Will advertisers cave in?
Hopefully not. This time could be different as the combination of legitimate issues and deep distrust of Facebook’s power may be enough to keep this campaign going and building momentum.
— Chris Skinner (@Chris_Skinner) July 5, 2020
So far, the advertiser pull-outs represent only a fraction of Facebook’s revenue — analysts said at the start of this week that they still expect the company to have a strong quarter, with some $17 billion in sales — but the PR blitz and creeping sense that the site was becoming toxic to ad buyers got the site’s attention.
The boycott organizers had hoped that keeping the push limited to a month would act as a forming mechanism, pushing Facebook to make quick changes. The coalition came up with 10 specific demands, among them installing a high-level executive with civil-rights expertise, doing away with the fact-checking exemption for politicians’ speech and creating human points of contact for Facebook users experiencing identity-based harassment.
Extend US Facebook boycott to Europe, campaigners urge https://t.co/W1iVJwCT36
— Jason Kint (@jason_kint) July 7, 2020
It will be interesting over the next several days and weeks to see if this campaign expands, and how Facebook responds. Similarly whether the focus of the campaign will move beyond mere advertising.
You've heard about the #FacebookBoycott from advertisers. But most of the companies are still keeping pixel data.
Total virtue signaling.
— Max Rymer (@MaxRRymer) July 7, 2020
What do you think? Where is all this headed?