With the social unrest now unleashing its wrath upon Facebook’s business model, hundreds from corporate America swiftly moved towards damage control pulling themselves out of Facebook advertising, turning their back on the peer who helps them make millions without having to share direct culpability.
Big names, including Unilever, North Face, Pfizer, Fossil, and Levi Strauss decided to halt their Facebook advertising programs due to Facebook’s inability to check hate speech and misinformation. Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, tried to control the damage through a live stream and promised to enhance its content moderation policies. However, Zuckerberg’s reaction seemed too little and too late.
The Billion Dollar Campaign
The campaign “Stop Hate for Profit” started on the backdrop of protests against racism across the United States after the killing of a 46-year-old black man, George Floyd in the now legendary Minneapolis police brutality event. A number of civil rights groups called on business houses to pull out advertisements from Facebook and Instagram claiming the two platforms have failed to check incitement of violence.
The campaign is the brainchild of prominent civil rights groups like Color of Change, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Free Press, Sleeping Giants, and Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The group accused Facebook of not putting sufficient effort to put an end to the spread of lies and hatred against black Americans on its platform.
The campaign’s website also claims that Facebook allowed the posts that incited violence against the protesters fighting for justice. It also asked the advertisers to clear their stand and urges businesses to pull out their advertisements from Facebook and its sibling platform, Instagram.
Here the timing is of the essence. The campaigners believe that with the 2020 US presidential election right ahead, the hateful and racial content will further polarize voters. The whole campaign has attracted participation from major names like Ben & Jerry’s, Magnolia Pictures, Verizon, Honda Motor Co., and Hershey’s Company.
Watch: Ben & Jerry’s Stops Advertisement On Facebook
Coca-Cola, too, had announced the halt of its advertising programs with Facebook and Instagram for a month. However, it clarified that the on-going campaign has no direct bearing on the company’s step.
The company statement reads, “We will take this time to reassess our advertising standards and policies to determine whether revisions are needed internally, and what more we should expect of our social media partners to rid the platforms of hate, violence, and inappropriate content. We will let them know we expect greater accountability, action, and transparency from them.”
The ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign organizers have also released some recommendations for Facebook to fight the spread of false news and racist posts on its platform. The recommendations include increasing private groups’ safety, stopping ad revenue from misinformative posts, and showing significant support to the victim of racism, antisemitism, and hate online.
Facebook’s cold response
During the 11-minute live stream last week, Zuckerberg said that he would make sure that Facebook would remain the platform where people can raise their voice on important issues. At the same time, he promised to do everything possible to cut down hateful posts that incite any form of violence.
Watch: Zuckerberg To Review Policies Post Black Life Matter
He also added that both Facebook and Instagram would protect the interests of marginalized and minorities. Prior to the live stream, Facebook had talked to over 200 of its advertisers through a conference call and ensured that they were taking measures to bridge the trust deficit.
However, Facebook said that it wouldn’t necessarily take down such controversial posts; instead, it would label them accordingly and leave them to the readers’ discretion.
The Overrated Damage
Advertising revenue accounts for a huge part of Facebook’s cumulated annual $70 billion in revenue. The recent withdrawal of advertisements by big brands has caused a fall of 8.3% in Facebook’s shares. However, the damage has not been that great, at least, till now.
As per the data from market research firm Pathmatics, Facebook’s biggest ads spenders like Walmart, American Express, and Home Depot are yet to join the campaign. Only three companies – Microsoft, Starbucks, and Pfizer, are amongst the top 25 advertising clients of Facebook. As far as 2019 revenue goes, the top 25 companies gave Facebook a $2 billion revenue.
Looking at the number of Facebook’s advertising clients, Zuckerberg hardly minds the impact of the current campaign. Even if its top 100 clients stop using Facebook as a medium of advertising, the social media giant will only lose 6% of revenue. However, apart from the financials, the campaign may severely damage Facebook’s image as a safe and reliable platform. This is not the first time Facebook is dragged to a soup. Earlier in 2018, a #deletefacebook hashtag went viral, accusing it of mishandling users’ data.
Watch: Facebook Shares Drop As Ads Boycott Grows
A similar campaign also had happened against YouTube in 2017. A bunch of big corporates pulled money out of the platform for a while, only to join later. However, it would be crucial to see the fate of the current campaign during the anticipation of the 2020 US Presidential elections.
Even if its top 100 clients stop using Facebook as a medium of advertising, the social media giant will only lose 6% of revenue.