First media agency 360i, and now North Face, have endorsed a proposed July boycott of Facebook as a way to pressure the company into doing more to clean up hate content on its platforms.
In a story published Thursday evening, The Wall Street Journal reported that 360i sent an email to clients saying it supports the proposed #StopHateForProfit July boycott, because it “believes any social platform that earns profits by amplifying the voices of their community must have a zero tolerance policy for hate.”
The email reportedly did not mention Facebook by name, but the boycott, which is backed by civil rights groups like the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League , is specifically targeting the social media platform. Facebook has long been accused of permitting the dissemination of toxic, hateful and racist content, but demand for real action has increased as calls to stamp out racism have spread following last month’s killing of George Floyd.
360i is a relatively small player in the media landscape, and parent company Dentsu Aegis Network said in a statement that its position “is not the POV of Dentsu or Dentsu Media.”
However, other media voices have similarly called for advertisers to use their financial clout to force change at Facebook. On Friday morning, North Face tweeted out that it would support the boycott.
— The North Face (@thenorthface) June 19, 2020
And last week, Elijah Harris, SVP of paid social at IPG MediaBrands used his personal Linkedin to ask if it was time for advertiser to force change at Facebook. “Are we, as marketers, able to continue to trust a platform that abdicates its responsibility and is often in conflict with its own mission statement? Should it continue to be the default choice for marketers when certain Facebook policies seemingly stand in opposition of what is right? Moreover, when the content that flourishes on Facebook runs the risk of harming the very consumers brands are trying to serve?”
The boycott could raise difficult questions for advertisers who have spoken out publicly against racism while at the same time giving money to a company that has been accused by leading Black advocacy groups, including the NAACP and Color of Change, of spreading anti-Black racism.
According to the Canadian Media Concentration Research Project, Canadian advertisers spent more than $2 billion on Facebook advertising in 2018, more than 14% of all ad spend in the country.
“We have been continually disappointed and stunned by Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to protecting white supremacy, voter suppression and outright lies on Facebook. As corporations take a stand against racism in our society, they should consider how their advertising dollars support Facebook making Black people less safe online,” said Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change.
Facebook has been reaching out to ad agencies in response to the growing calls for advertisers to withhold their ad spend in order to exert greater pressure for change, according to Business Insider.
In a memo sent to ad agencies, Facebook’s VP of global marketing solutions, Carolyn Everson, addressed concerns about voting, political content and hate speech.
“We know hate speech is a weapon often wielded by those in a privileged majority. We recognize that we have to work harder than ever to ensure those whose voices are the most historically marginalized have the opportunity to make their voices heard,” said Everson in the memo, which was posted in full by Business Insider. “For us this means having the strongest policies against hate and the most advanced technologies in the world to remove it. As you know, we don’t tolerate hate speech and remove it whenever we find it.”
Also on Thursday, Facebook confirmed it was pulling Donald Trump campaign ads for for using a symbol used in Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Earlier in the week, it pulled down 900 accounts linked to white supremacy.
Advertisers have taken steps before to pressure changes on social media. Last winter, a number of marketers froze their spending with YouTube after it was revealed that pedophiles were using the comments section on certain videos to facilitate what was described as a “soft-core pedophilia ring.”
And after a mass shooting in New Zealand was live streamed on social platforms last year, the World Federation of Advertisers issued a statement which called for its members and all brands worldwide “to put pressure on platforms to do more to prevent their services and algorithms from being hijacked by those with malicious intent.”
The WFA said advertisers have “a moral responsibility to consider more than just the effectiveness and efficiency they provide for brand messages.”
However, asked about the current calls for a Facebook boycott, WFA CEO Stephan Loerke told The Message via email that while more most be done to stop the spread of harmful content, it wanted to work with social platforms to fix the problem.
“We believe that the best way of driving change is for advertisers to work together with social media platforms and the wider ad industry to challenge existing practices and create a safer and fairer online media environment for everyone,” he said,