In just over two weeks, the Stop Hate for Profit campaign has rallied the support of over 400 companies — all of which have pulled their advertising dollars from Facebook and Instagram for the month of July.
The global boycott against Facebook — led by advocacy groups the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Common Sense, Free Press and Color of Change — stems from Facebook’s long history of allowing racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform. The campaign set out to organize corporate and public pressure to demand that Facebook stop generating ad revenue from hateful content, provide more support to people who are targets of racism and hate, and to increase safety for private groups on the platform, among other measures. So far, over 400 companies — including major brands such as adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Coca-Cola, Colgate-Palmolive, Ford, Hershey, Honda, Lego, Levi’s, The North Face, Patagonia, REI and Unilever — have pledged to stop advertising on the social network until it does more to curb hate speech and harmful content.
As Color of Change President Rashad Robinson told NPR: "Facebook has given [advertisers] no other option because of their failure, time and time again, to address the very real and the very visible problems on their platform."
The campaign launched on June 17, with an ad in The Los Angeles Times asking what Facebook could do with the $70 billion in revenue that it makes from advertising each year; and highlighting that the platform is amplifying the messages of white supremacists, permitting incitement to violence, and is failing to disrupt bad actors using it to do harm. The ad called on large corporate advertisers to “send Facebook a powerful message: Your profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence.”
“Facebook remains unwilling to take significant steps to remove political propaganda from its platform,” Derrick Johnson, President and CEO of the NAACP, said at the campaign’s launch. “It is clear that Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are no longer simply negligent; but in fact, complacent in the spread of misinformation, despite the irreversible damage to our democracy. Such actions will upend the integrity of our elections as we head into 2020. We will not stand for this. While we recognize the value that Facebook provides in connecting people of color with one another, we call into question a platform that profits from the suppression of Black votes or Black voices.”
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The dramatic hollowing out of Facebook’s ad revenue may be beginning to sway Zuckerberg, who announced on Friday that it will put warning labels on posts that break its rules but are considered newsworthy. The new policy marks a reversal for Zuckerberg, but is just a tiny step toward meeting the demands of the ‘Stop Hate’ campaign — which has put together a series of clear-cut, recommended next steps that Facebook could begin to take immediately that would result in real progress.
Major brands can easily spare a month’s worth of potential lost clicks, but taking a stand against Facebook will likely hit smaller businesses where it hurts, too. When Simris, a Swedish producer of algae-based omega-3 supplements, announced on June 2 that it would show its support for the Black Lives Matter movement by putting its marketing dollars where its mouth is, CEO Fredrika Gullfot explained:
“We understand this puts us at a major marketing disadvantage compared to other brands and products out there. But we also trust that honesty and respect will win in the long run, and trust our friends and community to share our message. While Simris is a mere drop in the ocean, we can and will not continue to enable a sick system with our funds. Instead, we chose to follow the voice in our hearts and trust that love will win in the end.”
Today, Sustainable Brands™ joined the fray, as well, with CEO KoAnn Skrzyniarz saying:
“We love the group of changemakers and thought leaders we are in community with on both Facebook and Instagram. But we cannot ignore the larger context here: These platforms can and should do significantly better. In June, we committed our public support to the Black Lives Matter movement, because we believe in creating a just, resilient and inclusive society for all. We recognize that the fights for climate justice and social justice are interconnected.
“Brands that show up for causes that matter in this way, even when it costs them, will help lead business to create a flourishing future for all. This is just one small step, from one small organization; but all the steps we all take collectively count towards the greater whole.”