July 7, 2020

Everything You Need to Know About the Facebook Boycott

Christina Sirabella

If you work in social media, you’re likely aware of the recent Facebook boycott, in which brands are pausing their ads on the platform during the month of July. However, the campaign isn’t as common knowledge as you might think—a recent study shows that nearly 70 percent of consumers are unaware or have not formulated an opinion about it.

No matter which group you’re in, we put together a quick rundown of everything you need to know about #StopHateForProfit.


What prompted all of this?

Since the 2016 presidential election, Facebook’s influence has come under increasing scrutiny and controversy. This led to the revelation of the Cambridge Analytica data breach, which in turn led to a $5 billion fine and many new protections for users’ data privacy, including a function that let users opt out of personalized ads completely.

However, concerns over data privacy have recently given way to complaints of bias, misinformation, harassment, and hate speech on the platform. While Twitter has banned political ads, ramped up a system to fact-check misleading information and disputed or unverified claims, and tagged a Trump tweet for violating rules against “glorifying violence,” Mark Zuckerberg has staked out a more moderate stance. “I don’t think that Facebook or internet platforms, in general,” he said in a recent interview, “should be arbiters of truth. I think that’s kind of a dangerous line to get down to, in terms of deciding what is true and what isn’t.”

In fact, accusations of bias on the platform come from both the right and the left. Trump recently issued an executive order to prevent censorship on social media on the assumption that the social networks are actively trying to silence conservative voices. Civil rights groups, however, point to the fact that according to an ADL survey, more than 55 percent of Facebook users reported experiencing hate and harassment on the platform.


What do the civil rights groups want Facebook to do?

On June 17, as the movement to end systemic racism continued to build momentum across the nation, six civil rights groups including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League publicly called on businesses to pause ad spending on Facebook in July. The goal, part of a campaign called #StopHateForProfit, is to get the social network to do more to combat hate speech and misinformation. The campaign outlined 10 steps it wants Facebook to take to do so.

The recommendations include:

  1. 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.
  2. Participating in a regular audit by an independent third-party about identity-based misinformation and hate. The results would be published online.
  3. Notifying businesses if their ads are shown next to content Facebook pulled down that violated its rules and give them a refund.
  4. Finding and removing Facebook groups about white supremacy, militias, anti-Semitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denial, vaccine misinformation, and climate change denial.
  5. Adopting policy changes to help combat hateful content.
  6. Stop recommending or amplifying groups or content with ties to hate, misinformation, or conspiracies to users.
  7. Creating a way to automatically flag hateful content in private groups for human review.
  8. Stop exempting politicians from fact checking, removing misinformation about voting, and prohibiting calls to violence from politicians.
  9. Creating expert teams to review identity-based hateful content and harassment.
  10. Allowing people facing severe hate or harassment to talk to a Facebook employee.


Which companies have joined?

As of this morning, almost 1,000 brands have paused their advertising on Facebook.

Participants include well-known brands such as Acura, Adidas, Ben & Jerry’s, Best Buy, Blue Bottle Coffee, Blue Shield of California, Body Shop, Campbell Soup, Chobani, Clif Bar, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Conagra, Consumer Reports, CVS, Denny’s, Dockers, Dunkin’ Donuts, Eddie Bauer, Eileen Fisher, Ford, Fossil, Hershey, Honda, HP, Intercontinental Hotels, J.M. Smucker, JanSport, Kay Jewelers, Kind Snacks, Lego, Levi’s, Lululemon, Magnolia Pictures, Mars, Merck, Merrell, Microsoft, Molson Coors, Mozilla, North Face, Patagonia, Pepsi, Pete’s Coffee, Pfizer, Puma, Reebok, REI, Samuel Adams, SAP, Schwinn, Sesame Workshop, Siemens, Six Flags, SodaStream, Starbucks, Target, Truly, Unilever, Vans, Verizon, Volkswagen, White Castle, and Zales.


How has Facebook responded?

Facebook’s Vice President of Global Affairs and Communications, Nick Clegg, released a statement on July 1 that said, in part: “Billions of people use Facebook and Instagram because they have good experiences—they don’t want to see hateful content, our advertisers don’t want to see it, and we don’t want to see it. There is no incentive for us to do anything but remove it.”

Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s Head of Global Business, released a statement in which she said: “We respect any brand’s decision, and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information. Our conversations with marketers and civil rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good.”

Additionally, Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg had a meeting earlier today with leaders of at least three civil rights groups: the Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change, and the NAACP.

We’ll be keeping our eyes on the situation and continuing to update this post as more information is made available. Even Facebook admits this is not something they’ll find a solve for overnight—but recognizing that there’s a problem is a promising first step.


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Tags: Advertising, Consumer Insights, Facebook, Paid Media, Social Media, Trends

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