Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have come to an agreement with a collective of advertisers on steps to curb hate speech and other harmful content on their platforms. They’re baby steps but steps nonetheless, I suppose.
According to Reuters, the move comes three months after the George Floyd protests spurred advertisers to boycott Facebook over its lax policies regarding hate speech. Advertisers have long had an issue with the fact that social media companies did little to prevent their ads from appearing next to hate speech, fake news and otherwise harmful content.
Social media companies, on the other hand, want to appear as though they’re being proactive about the issue to avoid potential government regulation. On Wednesday, the World Federation of Advertisers announced that the deal reached will have all three platforms adopt common definitions for what is considered harmful content, as well as harmonized reporting standards. The platforms also agreed to give advertisers more control over what content is seen next to their ads and to have external auditors review some of their practices.
“This is a significant milestone in the journey to rebuild trust online...Whilst change doesn’t happen overnight, today marks an important step in the right direction,” Luis Di Como, Executive Vice President of Global Media at Unilever, told Reuters.
Carolyn Everson, vice president for global marketing solutions at Facebook, said the deal “has aligned the industry on the brand safety floor and suitability framework, giving us all a unified language to move forward on the fight against hate online,” which is a lot of words to say, “we’re finally on the same page about what’s offensive.”
This really just sounds like it’s going to stop ads from appearing next hate speech and not, you know, outright removing the hate speech. I’d much rather hate speech be stamped out completely, but I guess it’s nice it won’t be appearing next to Coke ads?
The deal was met with skepticism by those who believe more regulation is needed for social media platforms. “Any progress in reducing harmful online content is to be welcomed,” David Babbs of the United Kingdom-based organization Clean Up the Internet told Reuters via email. “However, up to now voluntary action from social media companies has rarely lived up to its initial promises. So time will tell how much of a difference this latest industry-led initiative will make.”
Stop Hate for Profit is a boycott campaign against Facebook supported by the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP. The campaign did not immediately respond to Reuters request for comment.
A statement issued last week by the campaign said: “Facebook’s failures lead to real-life violence and sow division, and we’re calling on the company to improve its policies. We need to urge people to vote and demand Facebook stop undermining our democracy. Enough is enough.”