Starbucks pauses all social media advertising over hate speech concerns

Marco Green
June 30, 2020

Since the campaign launched earlier this month, more than 160 companies, including Verizon Communications and Unilever Plc, have signed on to stop buying ads on the world's largest social media platform for the month of July. "In the meantime, Facebook can take steps to demonstrate it will reduce hate speech further on the platform; although more content oversight could bring more regulatory risks to the forefront". And that in turn will depend on how successful they are in using other media during such a suspension, and whether, given their intense concern about safeguarding their brands, significant numbers of consumers actually begin to show a shift in sentiment or behavior toward Facebook and the other dominant platforms.

Amazeen added that the movement highlights that "long overdue pressure is finally mounting on social media platforms to be accountable gatekeepers and stop promoting hate and violence for profit".

Facebook, which is based in Menlo Park, Calif. and also owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said in a statement that it invests billions of dollars each year to keep its community safe and continuously works with outside experts to review and update its policies.

Following the bloodbath, the CEO of Facebook said that the network is going to expand its definition of prohibited hate speech.

As analysts have pointed out (see today's RTBlog), the pure financial impacts if even all of Facebook's top advertisers pausing their advertising on Facebook and its parent company would be relatively modest, accounting for about 6% of Facebook's ad revenues, which generated most of its $70 billion in total revenues previous year.

Advertising accounts for 98.5% of Facebook's revenue, generating more than $69 billion in 2019. Until now, the criticism has not significantly impacted Facebook's bottom line but the new wave of advertiser boycotts could change the dynamics for the social media giant. Facebook shares on Friday closed down more than 8% in response to the Unilever announcement.

Steyer said they will urge global advertisers such as Unilever and Honda, which have only committed to pausing USA ads, to pull their Facebook ads globally.

Ford, for example said it would pause all social media advertising to "re-evaluate our presence on these platforms", adding that "content that includes hate speech, violence and racial injustice on social platforms needs to be eradicated". "We will take this time to reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed".

He said: "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 need comprehensive policy".

Starbucks is the latest big company to rethink advertising on Facebook, announcing Sunday it will stop paying for content across all social media platforms while consulting with civil rights groups and media partners.

A version of this story first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific and has beed edited to include details of Diageo, Starbucks and Levi's joining the advertiser boycott.

Canadian companies Lululemon Athletica, Mountain Equipment Co-op and Arc'teryx are joining a growing list of top worldwide brands vowing not to advertise on Facebook in July because of hateful content that continues to spread on the social media platform.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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