Organisers of a Facebook advertising boycott campaign that has drawn support from a rapidly expanding list of major companies are now preparing to take the battle global to increase pressure on the social media company to remove hate speech. The “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign will begin calling on major companies in Europe to join the boycott, Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, said in an interview with Reuters on Saturday. Since the campaign launched earlier this month, more than 160 companies, including Verizon Communications and Unilever, have signed on to stop buying ads on the world’s largest social media platform for the month of July.
Free Press and Common Sense, along with US civil rights groups Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League, launched the campaign following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis police.
“The next frontier is global pressure,” Steyer said, adding the campaign hopes to embolden regulators in Europe to take a harder stance on Facebook. The European Commission in June announced new guidelines for tech companies including Facebook to submit monthly reports on how they are handling coronavirus misinformation.
The outrage in the United States over the death of Floyd has led to an unprecedented reaction from corporations around the world. Its impact has been felt beyond US borders. Unilever, for example, changed the name of a skin-lightening product popular in India called Fair and Lovely.
The global campaign will proceed as organisers continue to urge more US companies to participate. Jessica Gonzalez, co-chief executive of Free Press, said she has contacted major US telecommunications and media companies to ask them to join the campaign.
Responding to demands for more action, Facebook on Sunday acknowledged it has more work to do and is teaming up with civil rights groups and experts to develop more tools to fight hate speech. Facebook said its investments in artificial intelligence have allowed it to find 90 percent of hate speech before users report it.
Expanding the campaign outside the United States will take a bigger slice off of Facebook’s advertising revenue but is not likely have major financial impact. Unilever, for instance, on Friday committed to pausing its US spending on Facebook for the rest of the year. That only accounts for about 10 percent of its overall estimated $250 million (roughly Rs. 1,890 crores) it spends on Facebook advertising annually, according to Richard Greenfield of LightShed Partners, a media and tech research firm.
Steyer said they will urge global advertisers such as Unilever and Honda, which have only committed to pausing US ads, to pull their Facebook ads globally.
Annually, Facebook generates $70 billion (roughly Rs. 5.29 lakh crores) in advertising sales and about a quarter of it comes from big companies such as Unilever with the vast majority of its revenue derived from small businesses.
But the publicity around its hate speech policies have hurt its perception and stock. On Friday, Facebook’s 8.3 percent decline in stock price wiped out $56 billion (roughly Rs. 4.32 lakh crores) in market capitalisation.
The renewed push to urge more companies outside of the United States to join demonstrates the level of frustration felt by social justice groups and the companies that support them over Facebook’s lack of action on misinformation and hate speech, Steyer said.
He and Gonzalez said Facebook’s efforts on Friday to introduce new measures to ban ads and label hate speech from politicians to appease boycotters fell short of the campaign’s demands.
“If they think they are done based on Friday, they are sorely mistaken,” Gonzalez said. “We don’t need a one-off policy here and there. We need comprehensive policy.”
Stop Hate for Profit has outlined a set of demands, which include a separate moderation process to help users who are targeted by race and other identifiers, more transparency on how many incidents of hate speech are reported and to stop generating ad revenue from harmful content.
Moreover, Facebook did not address demands that it refund companies whose ads are displayed next to content that is later removed for policy violations, said Ian Orekondy, chief executive of AdComplyRx, an advertising tech company that helps pharmaceutical brands with their digital ads, which has joined the boycott.
The boycott has accelerated to include other digital advertising platforms such as Twitter. Starbucks said Sunday it would pause advertising on all social media platforms while it works with civil rights organizations to “stop the spread of hate speech.”
© Thomson Reuters 2020
Facebook Not Doing Enough to Fight Discrimination, Audit Says
By Reuters | Updated: 8 July 2020
Facebook has not done enough to protect users from discrimination, falsehoods, and incitement to violence, an external civil rights audit found on Wednesday, adding to pressure on the company in the midst of an advertiser boycott.
The audit report, which Facebook commissioned two years ago, pointed to what the authors described as a series of harmful decisions, including a “terrible precedent” not to intervene in posts in recent weeks by President Donald Trump, which could allow the platform to be “weaponised to suppress voting”.
The findings come at a time when some 900 advertisers, including major brands such as Coca-Cola, have joined a boycott promoted by major US civil rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP.
“Many in the civil rights community have become disheartened, frustrated and angry after years of engagement where they implored the company to do more to advance equality and fight discrimination, while also safeguarding free expression,” the auditors wrote.
Facebook commissioned the audit in 2018 as part of its response to a range of criticism over issues such as data privacy, voter suppression, incitement of violence, and a lack of transparency in political advertising. The audit was led by Laura Murphy, a former director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s legislative office.
The company did not immediately indicate specific steps it would take in response to the findings, but issued a statement attributed to Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg describing the audit as a “really important process for our company”.
“Facebook stands firmly against hate,” Sandberg said. “What has become increasingly clear is that we have a long way to go.”
The auditors said Facebook had been too willing to exempt politicians from its rules, letting some spread misinformation, harmful and divisive rhetoric, and even calls to violence.
Facebook has taken a hands-off approach to political speech compared to rivals, notably leaving untouched posts by Trump in recent weeks which were flagged by its rival Twitter for falsehoods and incitement of violence.
One Trump tweet, labeled by Twitter as “potentially misleading”, said voting by mail – a common procedure in US elections – would be “substantially fraudulent”.
“Allowing the Trump posts to remain establishes a terrible precedent that may lead other politicians and non-politicians to spread false information about legal voting methods, which would effectively allow the platform to be weaponized to suppress voting,” the auditors said.
Organisers of the advertising boycott met for more than an hour via video conference with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Sandberg on Tuesday. After the meeting, activists said they saw “no commitment to action” from the company.
© Thomson Reuters 2020
Prime Minister Modi Shuts Weibo Account After China App Ban
Sina Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter, said it has deleted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s account at the request of the Indian embassy, as tensions between the two countries continue to simmer over a border skirmish.
Since posting on Sina Weibo the first time in 2015 during a visit to China, PM Modi has been an infrequent user of the Chinese social media platform. He had more than 200,000 followers and 100 posts before the account was shut.
Sina Weibo announced the closure of the account late on Wednesday and the removal comes a few days after India banned dozens of Chinese apps, including Sina Weibo and ByteDance’s TikTok, following the border clash between the two nations.
The Indian embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
PM Modi was among a handful of foreign leaders with a Weibo account. Others include Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, Justin Trudeau of Canada, and Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.
Notably, PM Modi revealed the birth dates of both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang by wishing them “Happy Birthday” on Weibo. The discussion of senior leaders’ private lives is extremely rare in China and the exact birth dates of most of them are not revealed publicly.
In contrast, Chinese leaders are rarely active on social media. Foreign social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China.
© Thomson Reuters 2020
Facebook Agrees to Audit Its Hate Speech Controls
Facebook said on Monday it would submit itself to an audit of how it controls hate speech in a bid to appease a growing advertising boycott of the platform, as it prepared to address a group of advertisers on Tuesday.
The move comes as major advertisers such as Unilever and Starbucks have signed on to the “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign started by US civil rights groups, which urges brands to pause their Facebook ads in July to pressure the social media giant to do more to take down hate speech.
Media Rating Council (MRC), a media measurement firm, will conduct the audit to evaluate how it protects advertisers from appearing next to harmful content and the accuracy of Facebook’s reporting in certain areas.
The scope and timing of the audit were still being finalised, Facebook said.
Facebook hosted a call with advertisers on Tuesday, which included Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, Guy Rosen, vice president of integrity, and Neil Potts, public policy director.
The executives told the group Facebook would include a new data point about the prevalence of hate speech in its Community Standards Enforcement Report, which details how the company takes down content that violates policy, said Barry Lowenthal, chief executive of ad agency The Media Kitchen, who attended the call.
Lowenthal said while he believed Facebook had taken many steps toward tampering down hate speech, the problem has become so large that it may require more drastic measures to fix.
“Maybe they should hit pause on the platform entirely,” Lowenthal said, whose agency works with clients like Vanguard and Loews Hotels. “How much more can society handle?”
Ford Motor Co and Coca-Cola are among companies that said they would pause advertising on all social media platforms for at least 30 days.
Facebook announced last week it would label “newsworthy” content that violates its policies, but the move failed to satisfy organisers of the boycott, who plan to call on more global advertisers to join the campaign.
© Thomson Reuters 2020
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