With a growing list of corporate advertisers agreeing to join the #StopHateForProfit campaign aimed at pressurizing Facebook to take stringent measures to stop the spread of hate, the largest social media company of the world is facing an advertising boycott that is has never experienced in its recent history.
Some of biggest advertisers on Facebook, such as Verizon, Unilever and Starbucks, have announced halting of advertisements on the platform.
However the premise of the boycott was pushed back on by Facebook’s Vice President for Public Affairs Nick Clegg, in an interview to news channel CNN.
While averting a question on the perceived damage to the company because of the protest, Clegg instead argued that the social media giant does not benefit from the proliferation of hate speech on its platform.
“We have absolutely no incentive to tolerate hate speech,” Clegg said during the interview. “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.”
The efforts that is made by the company to address and stop hate speech on the platform was stressed by Clegg. He said that every month, about 3 million items of hate speech content around the world is removed by the company and 90 per cent of such identified posts are pulled down from the platform even before they are reported or flagged by users.
An expanded policy on hate speech was announced by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Friday which includes putting a ban on ads that scapegoat minorities, immigrants, asylum seekers, racial or other groups, or posts that portray these groups as being threats.
Posts by users that are newsworthy but violate the platform’s policies will also be labeled with warnings by Facebook. Inaction on posts by President Donald Trump that other platforms, such as Twitter, that have been identified to be glorifying violence or spreading misinformation, by Facebook has been the main criticism of the company.
But advertisers might not be satisfied by the latest measures taken by Facebook. For example, even after Zuckerberg announced the expanded policy, Hershey’s announced that it would be joining the boycott and said: “we do not believe that Facebook is effectively managing violent and divisive speech on their platform.”
Plan to pause all social media advertising was also announced on Sunday by Facebook’s sixth-largest advertiser, Starbucks. “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,” said the coffee company said in a statement while it did not explicitly cite the #StopHateForProfit boycott campaign.
The efforts to address hate speech on the platform in response to the protest will be “redoubled” by Facebook, Clegg said, while claiming that the company has made “meaningful change”.
“Unfortunately, zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero occurrence,” Clegg said. “That’s why we constantly need to improve, implementing our policies, enforcing them so that we can seek out what, thankfully, is still a very small minority, but damaging minority, of content on the platform to make people feel safe and for people to continue to enjoy the positive useful experience that people come onto Facebook for in the first place.”
Criticism for the frequent presence of divisive speech on the site has also been faced by Facebook in addition to specific instances of hate speech. To would not be possible for the company to “get rid of everything that people react negatively to”, Clegg said.
“We will continue what we think is the only sense of the way forward, to have clear rules, to bear down aggressively on hate speech in particular,” Clegg said. “We understand that it’s a very fraught intense time in the nation, and we will continue to demonstrate our sincerity dealing with this problem with the responsibility that we clearly do bear.”
(Adapted from CNN.com)