An advertising boycott of Facebook called for by top civil rights groups continues to gather momentum with over 150 marketers—most recently joined by Best Buy, Ford, Adidas, Starbucks and Unilever—announcing they will not work with the tech giant until “meaningful action” is taken to address misinformation and hate speech.
Civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, launched the #StopHateForProfit campaign on June 17, pressuring large companies to halt advertising with a platform they say doesn’t stop “bad actors using the platform to do harm” at least through the month of July.
Best Buy told Forbes Monday that it will boycott Facebook and Instagram in July, following similar announcements from companies like Ford, Adidas and subsidiary Reebok, Clorox, Patreon, Conagara Brands, Denny’s, Pepsi-owned SodaStream and Edgewell Personal Care earlier in the day which add to an unfriending list of over 150 big-name brands that spend hundreds of millions of dollars with Facebook every year.
CNN confirmed Monday that Microsoft quietly suspended its Facebook and Instagram advertising in May, weeks ahead of the #StopHateForProfit launch, and may be the biggest advertiser yet to quit Facebook this year (Microsoft spent more than $115 million on Facebook ads in 2019, according to advertising analytics company Pathmatics).
Over the past week, Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Honda, Hershey’s and Unilever, which owns brands like Dove Soap and Lipton Tea, have also joined the boycott, though Coca-Cola and Starbucks—initiating Sunday an advertising pause on “all social media platforms” except YouTube—said they weren’t officially joining the #StopHateForProfit campaign.
Verizon said it would boycot the tech giant on Thursday after the ADL penned a letter to companies which mentioned finding an advertisement for Verizon “appearing next to a video from the conspiracy group QAnon drawing on hateful and antisemitic rhetoric”; compounding similar announcements last week from outspoken ice creamery Ben & Jerry’s, apparel companies Levi Strauss and Lululemon, film distributor Magnola Pictures, messaging app Viber, global nonprofit Habitat For Humanity, backpack producer JanSport, beauty subscription service Birchbox and more.
Procter & Gamble Co., which is considered an advertising trendsetter, said it is reviewing all the platforms it advertises on for objectionable content, according to The Wall Street Journal, and won’t work “on or near content that we determine is hateful, denigrating or discriminatory.”
As the list continues to grow, Facebook has tried to mitigate damage, reportedly giving an “upbeat” presentation to advertisers and agency executives on Tuesday and announcing Friday a new policy to begin labeling posts from politicians that violate its policies, but are newsworthy; despite this action, Facebook has seen its shares fall by more than 10 percent and has lost an estimated $80 billion in market value.
North Face was the first big brand to join the boycott, announcing last Friday that it would halt all U.S. paid advertising with Facebook and Instagram, closely followed by fellow outdoor apparel stores REI and Patagonia, and freelancing platform Upwork.
Dozens of smaller companies have similarly pledged their allegiance and multiple ad agencies have reportedly encouraged their clients to move away from Facebook, including Goodby Silvertein, the first agency to join the boycott, who has clients like BMW, HP, PayPal, Pepsi, Adobe and Doritos (these companies have not yet joined themselves); online therapy startup, Talkspace, withdrew from a six-figure content partnership deal with Facebook earlier this month and web browsing company Mozilla stopped advertising with Facebook in 2018 after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.
“For too long, Facebook has failed to take sufficient steps to stop the spread of hateful lies and dangerous propaganda on its platform,” Patagonia wrote in its statement. “From secure elections to a global pandemic to racial justice, the stakes are too high to sit back and let the company continue to be complicit in spreading disinformation and fomenting fear and hatred.”
Facebook generated $69.7 billion from advertising last year, trailing Google as the second-largest digital marketer.
Facebook has received criticism from civil rights leaders, employees and more for its handling of misinformation, intensified by weeks of anti-racism protests across the world. Calls for change began after Facebook refused to fact check a series of Trump’s tweets, including one from early on in the George Floyd protests that warned “looting” would lead to “shooting,” with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg making clear his stance that social media companies should not be “arbiters of truth.” The #StopHateForProfit campaign website accuses Facebook of facilitating the encouragement of violence, voter suppression and the spread of fake news. “Let’s send Facebook a powerful message: Your profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence,” the website reads.
“In Reversal, Zuckerberg Says Facebook Will Label Newsworthy Posts That Violate Its Rules” (Forbes)
“The Free Speech Face-Off Between Facebook And Twitter: Are Warnings Justified?” (Forbes)
“Google Begins Fact-Checking Images Amid Misinformation Crackdown” (Forbes)