Mark Zuckerberg loses $7 billion as companies boycott Facebook ads

Facebook announces new hate speech and misinformation policies amid advertiser revolt

Unilever NV headquarters in Rotterdam.

Joining several global brands, consumer goods major Unilever said that it has chose to stop advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the United States amid Facebook's inaction over hate speech.

"The polarized atmosphere places an increased responsibility on brands to build a trusted and safe digital ecosystem Brands have a duty to help build a trusted and safe digital ecosystem", Unilever wrote on Twitter, where it will no longer advertise.

While Zuckerberg did not mention the boycott directly, it was clear from the policies he outlined that Facebook is trying to appease its critics.

In other words, the next time Donald Trump posts on Facebook about how protesters should be shot, you'll still be able to share it.

In a video livestreamed over Facebook Friday afternoon, chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg said the social-media network would start labelling posts that violate its policies against hate speech but that Facebook considers newsworthy enough to remain visible on its platforms.

As CNN reports, while other advertisers have suspended ads on Facebook for a month or two amid national unrest and controversies over the company's policies vis a vis Trump, Unilever's move "marks the broadest and potentially most damaging yet of companies that have taken a stand against Facebook". The company's advertising revenue gained 27% in 2019 to more than $69.7 billion despite threats of regulation, previous calls for advertising boycotts and a user movement encouraging people around the world to delete their accounts.

22 police officers injured after lockdown clashes in London
A second video said to be from the scene shows police being stopped from moving down the street by a large group of young men. Volunteers clean up after a street party led to confrontations with police in the Brixton area of London , on June 25, 2020.

Unilever, whose brands include Dove shampoo, is the latest big advertiser to raise concerns over social media companies' failures to curb harmful content on their platforms. Also, that Trump post dealt with "state use of force", something that Facebook is still working on, spokesperson Tom Reynolds said.

"Since the most risky voter suppression campaigns can be local and run in the days immediately before an election, we're going to use our Elections Operations Center to quickly respond and remove false claims about polling conditions in the 72 hours leading into election day", announced the Facebook CEO. "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". Rival Twitter had affixed a fact-checking label to that put up. Facebook's stock fell about 7% following the news.

Facebook will now label when it is leaving rule-violating content up purely because it is "newsworthy", according to Zuckerberg.

Facebook's hands-off approach to Trump's most inflammatory rhetoric has come under pressure for weeks now from Democrats, civil rights groups and even Facebook employees. It's also been highlighting its work to increase voter registration, and on Friday Zuckerberg said the company would now prohibit ads that target certain races or ethnic groups as risky. In an email to marketers this week, the company said that it bases its policies on principles, not business interests.

The expanded policy will prohibit ads that claim these groups are a threat, Zuckerberg said on a livestream Friday.

Sarah Personette, Twitter's vice president for global client solutions, said in a statement: "We have developed policies and platform capabilities created to protect and serve the public conversation, and as always, are committed to amplifying voices from underrepresented communities and marginalized groups".

She added that Twitter is "respectful of our partners' decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time".

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