Outdoor apparel brand Patagonia is the latest to join a growing number of companies boycotting Facebook due to the slow reaction of the social media giant in halting the promotion of hate speech on its platform.
A group of organisations, including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and Color of Change, recently launched the #StopHateforProfit campaign with the goal of convincing social media companies to “put people over profit”. It launched asking advertisers to join the campaign and pause their spending on Facebook and Instagram ads for the month of July 2020.
In an open letter to advertisers last week, the ADL said: “Our partner organisations have been working with Facebook for years and we’ll continue to work with them. But when it comes to dealing with rampant hate and harassment, the platform continues to come up short. Their hate speech, incitement, and misinformation policies are inequitable. Their harassment victim services are inadequate. Their advertising placement’s proximity to hateful content is haphazard. And their “civil rights” audit transparency reports aren’t helpful to the civil rights community.
“Every day, we see ads from companies placed adjacent to hateful content, occupying the same space as extremist recruitment groups and harmful disinformation campaigns. Your ad buying dollars are being used by the platform to increase its dominance in the industry at the expense of vulnerable and marginalised communities who are often targets of hate groups on Facebook.”
According to ADL, Facebook brought in nearly US$70m in advertising revenue globally last year. Yet companies including Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, The North Face, Levi’s and Dockers have joined others in either significantly curtailing or outright ending their advertising on Facebook.
In a statement on Patagonia’s website, head of marketing Cory Bayers, said the company is proud to have joined the campaign and will pull all ads on Facebook and Instagram with immediate effect through, at least, the end of July, pending “meaningful action” from the social media giant.
“For too long, Facebook has failed to take sufficient steps to stop the spread of hateful lies and dangerous propaganda on its platform. From secure elections to a global pandemic to racial justice, the stakes are too high to sit back and let the company continue to be complicit in spreading disinformation and fomenting fear and hatred. As companies across the country work hard to ensure that Americans have access to free and fair elections this fall, we can’t stand by and contribute resources to companies that contribute to the problem. We stand with #StopHateforProfit in saying Facebook’s ‘profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence.”
Meanwhile, Levi Strauss said it would pause all paid Facebook and Instagram advertising globally across all brands, at least through to the end of July, depending on the social media giant’s response to the campaign.
“We are voicing our concern about Facebook’s failure to stop the spread of misinformation and hate speech on its platform,” said Jen Sey, CMO of the Levi’s brand. “We believe this inaction fuels racism and violence and also has the potential to threaten our democracy and the integrity of our elections.
“As we near the US election in November and double down on our own efforts to expand voter education and turnout, we are asking Facebook to commit to decisive change. Specifically, we want to see meaningful progress towards ending the amplification of misinformation and hate speech and better addressing of political advertisements and content that contributes to voter suppression. While we appreciate that Facebook announced some steps in this direction today – it’s simply not enough.”
A spokesperson for Facebook said: “We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and continuously work with outside experts to review and update our policies. We’ve opened ourselves up to a civil rights audit, and we have banned 250 white supremacist organisations from Facebook and Instagram. The investments we have made in AI mean that we find nearly 90% of Hate Speech we action before users report it to us, while a recent EU report found Facebook assessed more hate speech reports in 24 hours than Twitter and YouTube.
“We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups, GARM, and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight.”
The campaign offers a number of immediate steps Facebook could take that it says would result in “real progress”, including establishing and empowering a permanent civil rights infrastructure; submit to regular, third-party, independent audits of identity-based hate and misinformation; and creating an internal mechanism to automatically flag hateful content in private groups for human review.