Pres­sure grows on Face­book, so­cial me­dia

More brands con­cerned over fail­ure to ad­dress hate speech

USA TODAY International Edition - - MONEY - Phi­lana Pat­ter­son

Star­bucks on Sun­day joined the drum­beat of brands pledg­ing to pull ad­ver­tis­ing from Face­book and other so­cial me­dia plat­forms or tak­ing other ac­tions, putting eco­nomic pres­sure on the com­pa­nies to ad­dress con­cerns about con­tain­ing hate speech.

The coffee chain joins big brands in­clud­ing Coca- Cola, Unilever, Her­shey, Honda, Ed­die Bauer, The North Face, Levi’s, Ben & Jerry’s and Ver­i­zon in tak­ing var­i­ous steps.

Much of the ac­tiv­ity stems from the # StopHateFo­rProfit cam­paign, which in­cludes the NAACP, Anti- Defama­tion League, Sleep­ing Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Com­mon Sense.

While some of the brands have pledged to halt ad­ver­tis­ing in July, some are tak­ing ad­di­tional steps or differ­ent ap­proaches.

“We will pause ad­ver­tis­ing on all so­cial me­dia plat­forms while we con­tinue dis­cus­sions in­ter­nally, with our me­dia part­ners and with civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tions in the effort to stop the spread of hate speech,” Star­bucks said in a state­ment. The com­pany said it’s not part of the boy­cott.

Her­shey said it will cut spend­ing on Face­book and In­sta­gram by a third for the rest of the year. Coca- Cola said it plans to pause ad­ver­tis­ing on all so­cial me­dia plat­forms for at least 30 days while it re­vis­its its ad­ver­tis­ing poli­cies.

“We also ex­pect greater ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency from our so­cial me­dia part­ners,” reads a state­ment from James Quincey, chair­man and CEO of Coca- Cola.

Patag­o­nia, REI, Mozilla and Up­work and about 100 smaller com­pa­nies have said they are com­mit­ted to the ad­ver­tis­ing boy­cott.

After Coke joined the boy­cott, Rashad Robin­son, pres­i­dent of civil rights or­ga­ni­za­tion Color Of Change, tweeted: “One of the most rec­og­niz­able global brands in the world is halt­ing their @ Face­book ad­ver­tis­ing. Coke’s com­mit­ment to # StopHateFo­rProfit, along with Unilever and Ver­i­zon just in the last 24 hours, is a warn­ing sign for Face­book.”

On Fri­day, CEO Mark Zucker­berg out­lined in a livestream sev­eral steps he said the so­cial net­work will take ahead of the 2020 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion to com­bat hate speech. Among the

“We also ex­pect greater ac­count­abil­ity and trans­parency from our so­cial me­dia part­ners.” James Quincey, Coca- Cola chair­man, CEO

planned steps: push­ing back against voter sup­pres­sion, boost­ing stan­dards for hate­ful con­tent in ads, and la­bel­ing con­tent deemed news­wor­thy.

Face­book’s poli­cies sur­round­ing di­vi­sive posts have been scru­ti­nized after the plat­form left pub­lished a post from Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump fol­low­ing protests over the death of Ge­orge Floyd. In the post, Trump said “when the loot­ing starts, the shoot­ing starts.”

Zucker­berg has de­fended leav­ing the post un­touched, say­ing Face­book should al­low for as much free ex­pres­sion as pos­si­ble. A sim­i­lar post pub­lished to Twit­ter car­ried a warn­ing the tweet was “glo­ri­fy­ing vi­o­lence.”

“I’m op­ti­mistic that we can make progress on pub­lic health and racial jus­tice while main­tain­ing our demo­cratic tra­di­tions around free ex­pres­sion and vot­ing,” wrote Zucker­berg Fri­day. “I’m com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure Face­book is a force for good on this jour­ney.”

How much the cam­paign hurts Face­book de­pends on how many com­pa­nies get in­volved.

“If we’re lim­ited to 10 to 15 big- name ad­ver­tis­ers who join the boy­cott, I think it’s more sym­bolic and it would have lim­ited im­pact on Face­book’s busi­ness.” said Baird an­a­lyst Colin Se­bas­tian. “The fear is that this snow­balls into some­thing much larger.”

Last week, dur­ing a speech at Cannes Lion Live, Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer for P& G, said the com­pany would con­duct a “com­pre­hen­sive re­view” of where it is ad­ver­tis­ing. “Where stan­dards of re­spon­si­bil­ity and ci­vil­ity are not met, we will stop our spend­ing, just like we’ve done be­fore,” he said.

Among the steps out­lined by Zucker­berg Fri­day: posts that would typ­i­cally vi­o­late its poli­cies but re­main on the plat­form will in­clude a la­bel not­ing the con­tent may vi­o­late their poli­cies. He said the com­pany would not offer ex­emp­tions to con­tent that in­cites vi­o­lence or sup­presses vot­ing.

“Even if a politi­cian or gov­ern­ment official says it, if we de­ter­mine that con­tent may lead to vi­o­lence or de­prive peo­ple of their right to vote, we will take that con­tent down,” he said. “Sim­i­larly, there are no ex­cep­tions for politi­cians in any of the poli­cies I’m an­nounc­ing here to­day.”

“Peo­ple can agree or dis­agree on where we should draw the line, but I hope they un­der­stand our over­all phi­los­o­phy is that it is bet­ter to have this dis­cus­sion out in the open, es­pe­cially when the stakes are so high,” Zucker­berg said ear­lier this month.

The de­ci­sion prompted out­cry from both cur­rent and for­mer em­ploy­ees urg­ing more ac­tion. Sev­eral em­ploy­ees went on Twit­ter to protest the de­ci­sion, while a group of for­mer Face­book em­ploy­ees wrote an open letter pub­lished by The New York Times call­ing the com­pany’s move “cow­ardly.”

Zucker­berg said Fri­day Face­book plans to ex­pand what qual­ifies as hate­ful con­tent in ads, pro­hibit­ing “claims that peo­ple from a specific race, eth­nic­ity, na­tional ori­gin, re­li­gious affili­a­tion, caste, sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­tity or im­mi­gra­tion sta­tus are a threat to the phys­i­cal safety, health or sur­vival of oth­ers.”

The poli­cies will also fo­cus on ads tar­get­ing im­mi­grants, refugees and asy­lum seek­ers. “We al­ready re­strict cer­tain types of con­tent in ads that we al­low in reg­u­lar posts, but we want to do more to pro­hibit the kind of di­vi­sive and inflam­ma­tory lan­guage that has been used to sow dis­cord,” said Zucker­berg.

Mark Zucker­berg tes­tifies on Capitol Hill in April 2018. AN­DREW HARNIK/ AP FILE

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