Over the last month, companies large and small have paused their advertising on Facebook in an effort to push the social media giant to do more to stop the spread of hate on its platforms. The #StopHateforProfit campaign has amassed a huge roster of Facebook clients, including multinational conglomerate Unilever, Verizon, Coca-Cola, and—as of this weekend—Starbucks, Facebook’s sixth-largest advertiser.
“Specifically, we’re expanding our ads policy to prohibit claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others,” Zuckerberg wrote in a post. “We’re also expanding our policies to better protect immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from ads suggesting these groups are inferior or expressing contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them.”
The subtext here, of course, is that for years Facebook was not prohibiting these kinds of posts at all. The company will also tag newsworthy posts that violate the platform’s hate speech policies—like uhhh, Donald Trump’s tweets—with warning labels.
The expanded policy didn’t appear to do much to stem advertisers running off the platform, however. Unilever—which owns a suite of common household brands, including Dove, Palmolive, Axe, Lipton, and Breyers—announced on Friday that it was withdrawing its advertising from Facebook and Instagram through the end of the year. Facebook stock dropped 7 percent after the announcement, according to CNN. Starbucks followed suit later this weekend, issuing the following statement about its withdrawal: “We believe more must be done to create welcoming and inclusive online communities, and we believe both business leaders and policy makers need to come together to affect real change.”
Trying to reassure
the public prospective advertisers that Facebook was serious about cleaning up hate speech, Facebook Vice President for Public Affairs Nick Clegg hopped on CNN’s Reliable Sources on Sunday to defend the company’s efforts.
“We have absolutely no incentive to tolerate hate speech,” Clegg told host Brian Stelter. “We don’t like it, our users don’t like it, advertisers understandably don’t like it...We benefit from positive human connection—not hate.”
Buuuut that’s not quite true. As Gizmodo reported last year, Facebook made $1.6 million in ad dollars from SPLC-designated hate groups in a little under two years. Among the list of deplorable orgs was Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), which targets immigrants, the anti-LGBTQ Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom and the anti-Muslim Clarion Project.
The #StopHateforProfit campaign was sparked earlier this month after Facebook opted not to do anything about racist and inflammatory posts from President Donald Trump, including his warning to Black Lives Matter protesters: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” Twitter was marginally better in this regard, adding a warning to Trump’s tweet (but not taking the actual tweet down).
According to the Financial Times, a total of 150 brands and agencies have joined the boycott. While many of these companies are smaller, the Times notes that Verizon and Unilever combined spent more than $1.3 million in advertising on Facebook just in the first three weeks of June.