Part II: How Big Business Can Leverage Their Brand For Social Change: Facebook Boycott
On a recent podcast we discussed how small businesses can use their brand and audience to affect social change. Today we’re looking at how some of the biggest brands in the world like Unilever, Adidas, Microsoft, PlayStation and many others are using their brands, and more specifically their ad dollars, to push for changes critical to continuing a positive social change movement across the world. (Note: These huge brands only account for 13 percent of Facebook’s largest advertisers – they have over 7 million active advertisers).
With over 2.6 billion monthly users worldwide, Facebook is one of the most dominant platforms in the world. Users find information on Facebook, share articles, create special interest groups, live stream and generally learn a lot about what’s happening around them on the platform, making Facebook a critical partner in news and information sharing all around the globe. Because of the magnitude of their size and the type of information shared, many believe that Facebook has a responsibility to properly manage what is being shared, including accurate fact checking and the reduction or elimination of hate speech and posts that incite violence, especially those from political figures. One recent post from Donald Trump caused a walk out of Facebook employees when leadership refused to remove a post that team members felt would encourage violence towards Black Lives Matters protestors.
Even after multiple examples of posts and groups promoting racism, Anti-Semitism, climate denying and voter suppression, and many important leaders demanding change in their policies, Facebook has continued to not take full responsibility for keeping the worst types of content off their platform. While other social media platforms like Twitter & SnapChat have responded appropriately, Facebook has lagged and hid behind a variety of reasonings and continue to use “fact checkers” that hold many of the far-right beliefs that are believed to cause violence and misinformation, causing many of the worlds biggest brands to take action.
Civil rights activists have teamed up with the marketing departments of these major brands to boycott Facebook advertising for the month of July – demanding that Facebook take real and decisive action towards improving what is allowed in their Feeds. Since Facebook’s entire revenue model is made up of advertising dollars, one can only conclude that this movement will hit them where it really hurts, resulting in Facebook having to finally face the outcry for change.
Some of the key points this group is requesting from Facebook are:
● Hiring a C-suite-level executive with a civil rights background who will review the company’s products and rules for discrimination, bias and hate.
● Participating in a regular audit by an independent third-party about identity-based misinformation and hate. The results would be published online.
● Notifying businesses if their ads are shown next to content Facebook pulled down that violated its rules and give them a refund.
● Finding and removing Facebook groups about white supremacy, militias, anti-Semitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denial, vaccine misinformation and climate change denial.
● Adopting policy changes to help combat hateful content.
● Stop recommending or amplifying groups or content with ties to hate, misinformation or conspiracies to users.
● Creating a way to automatically flag hateful content in private groups for human review.
● Stop exempting politicians from fact checking, removing misinformation about voting and prohibiting calls to violence from politicians. (Facebook says that it will remove content that suppresses voting and incites violence including from politicians, but critics have disagreed with how the company interprets its rules.)
● Creating expert teams to review identity-based hateful content and harassment.
● Allowing people facing severe hate or harassment to talk to a Facebook employee.
Facebook reports that over 10 million posts were removed in the first 3 months of 2020. That’s a staggering number that shows a much wider issue in our society, but Facebook can step up and be part of the solution by helping to minimize how far this type of information spreads and by not allowing it to gain followers or traction within the confines of it’s platform. Hate speech will still exist, but the more times it is stood up to, the better chance we have as a society to get better and we need our big brands and the major platforms to be unified in not accepting this rhetoric or allowing it to continue, especially from important figures like our politicians.
While platforms like YouTube and Reddit have also come under fire for not doing enough to remove hateful content from their platforms, Facebook is the target of this particular campaign because of their sheer size, which includes Instagram and Whatsapp, combining for a massive audience size. If the biggest player adapts, the smaller platforms typically will as well so the #StopHateForProfit group has chosen to go straight to the top, especially since Twitter and Snapchat have been more proactive about removing controversial content.
At Digital Monk, we are strong believers in Facebook advertising. The volume of data available is unparalleled on any other advertising platform and we truly believe in it’s effectiveness to help our clients grow their businesses and achieve many different objectives. The right moves to ensure quality information and positive social momentum can only serve to make Facebook a better place to be for users and advertisers and we look forward to seeing the platform deliver on better policies to protect their audience. As a global leader, they have a responsibility to be the change we need to see in the world.
At last check, almost 1,000 brands, businesses and organizations had announced that they would pause their advertising for the month to support this movement. If you’re Facebook, that’s gotta hurt – and will hopefully open the door further to collaborative discussions to get these key changes made and to ultimately make Facebook a safer platform for all users
UPDATE – While Facebook reported that they only saw a small drop of 5% in advertising revenue in the first week of July, and a week later jumped right back to its projected revenue, Amazon & Starbucks have since announced their boycotts as well so the true impact has yet to be seen as the #StopHateForProfit movement gains traction.