Facebook tightens policies amid growing advertiser boycott

Zuckerberg speaks at the Paley Center in New York

Starbucks appears to be biggest Facebook advertiser to date to pause ads on the platform.

Some advertisers have been giving Facebook a thumbs-down.

Unilever on Friday joined a list of companies, including Ben & Jerry's, Verizon Communications and The North Face, protesting against social media as part of the "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign started by USA civil rights groups to force action against hate speech in a bid to do something "in the areas of divisiveness and hate speech during this polarized election period in the U.S".

The liquor company, parent to brands including Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Guinness, Cîroc and Crown Royal, is pausing spend on all major social media platforms, including Twitter, globally starting July 1.

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. "When we re-engage will depend on Facebook's response". Sey acknowledged some of the recent steps Zuckerberg has taken, but "it's simply not enough", she said. The clothier has a history of inserting itself into the political arena.

Retail giant Unilever, one of the world's largest advertisers, joined other major brands last week in pulling their advertising from the social media platform. The company, which had been "steadily reducing its reliance on the social media giant over the past two years", according to The New York Times, is estimated to have spent a relatively modest $947,100 on Facebook in the U.S.in 2019. Both are suspending ads in the US on Facebook and Instagram only.

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The consumer packaged goods giant on June 26 halted all ad spending on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the US through the end of the year.

It also said that though Starbucks is pausing advertising, it is not joining the "Stop Hate For Profit" boycott campaign, which kicked off earlier this month. According to Bloomberg, the drop came after Unilever announced that it would stop spending money with Facebook's properties in 2020. She added that Facebook is also engaging with NGOs on the matter. "We're a tiny fish in a massive ocean, but we're happy to be joining the boycott", he wrote. "Facebook mishandles users' data, lacks privacy in its apps, and has taken an outrageous stand avoiding the necessary steps to protect the public from violent and risky rhetoric", writes Agaoua.

"We deeply respect any brand's decision and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information", Facebook global business group vice president Carolyn Everson told The Hill last week. In 2017, Verizon took similar action against YouTube.

The #StopHateForProfit movement - originally started by civil rights groups on June 17 as an ad boycott of Facebook only, limited to the month of July - has quickly turned into a broader phenomenon.

However, content moderation concerns have long dogged the company, which has often landed in regulators' cross hairs as it struggles to balance freedom of speech with its responsibility to keep Facebook users safe.

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