Major corporations including some of the largest advertisers in the world have pulled ads from Facebook and Instagram over the last few days. Unilever, one of the largest advertisers on the planet, said that it would cancel its ad placements with the social media giant for the rest of 2020. The company makes Dove soap; Lipton tea and soups; Breyer's Ice Cream; Axe body wash; and many more well-known consumer products. Yesterday, soft drink giant Coca-Cola announced that it was no longer advertising on any social site globally for at least 30 days while late Friday both Dockers and Levi’s joined the boycott . Hershey's is cutting spending on both platforms by 33%.
A Verizon ad on Facebook was placed next to an offensive antisemitic video posted by QAnon
These firms are trying to force changes on Facebook and Instagram by making Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg sit-up and take notice. By pulling their ads, Facebook revenue will fall below expectations and already this has affected its stock price. Yesterday, the stock dropped 8.3% reducing the value of the company by $56 billion. Zuckerberg personally took a $7 billion hit although his net worth is still $82.3 billion after the decline.
The above-named companies are protesting Facebook's failure to remove offensive and hateful posts. For example, on Thursday the Anti-Defamation League disseminated an open letter that noted how the ADL "found an advertisement for Verizon appearing next to a video from the conspiracy group QAnon drawing on hateful and antisemitic rhetoric, warning that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is planning to bring on civil war with concentration camps and coffins at the ready and claiming Americans are already quarantined in militarized districts." The letter also states that "42 percent of daily Facebook users experienced harassment on the platform."
The nation's leading carrier spent $1.46 million in Facebook ads from May 22nd to June 20th according to analytics company Pathmatics. Verizon spent nearly $407,000 on Instagram ads over the same period. Verizon's Chief Media Office John Nitti said, "We have strict content policies in place and have zero-tolerance when they are breached, we take action. We’re pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with what we’ve done with YouTube and other partners."
Bloomberg reports that Zuckerberg held a live Q & A session with Facebook employees on Friday and announced some changes to the company's advertising policies. During this session, Zuckerberg said that Facebook will now link all posts related to voting to the Facebook voting hub. In addition, all posts that violate Facebook's rules will be marked up although they will remain on the platform. The ADL responded by saying that the changes were "small" and said, "We have been down this road before with Facebook. They have made apologies in the past. They have taken meager steps after each catastrophe where their platform played a part. But this has to end now."
The Wall Street Journal reports today that Facebook's VP of global business, Carolyn Everson, wrote a memo to advertisers last week. Everson wrote that Facebook does not "make policy changes tied to revenue pressure" and that it sets "policies based on principles rather than business interests." She also stated that during the six month time period that ended in March, 89% of the posts removed by Facebook for violating its policies against offensive messages were done automatically before anyone on the platform had a chance to read them. She also said, "Hate is an insidious feature of every society, and that is reflected across all platforms. But we also believe in our responsibility to help change the trajectory of hate speech -- and while we know we can’t eradicate it, we will continue to do everything in our power to shatter its presence on our platform."
Barry Lowenthal, the chief executive of Ad agency Media Kitchen, said that many of his clients are planning on boycotting Facebook and Instagram next month. "It’s the right thing to do as a good corporate citizen," he said.