The Facebook Boycott: What You Need To Know
Facebook has dominated headlines over the past week since a coalition of civil rights groups, including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League, launched the #StopHateForProfit campaign on June 17th to protest deficiencies in Facebook’s content and advertising policies. The campaign decries the policies they say have amplified hate speech, misinformation and fake news, and have led to the incitement of violence and voter suppression. The focus of the campaign has been to encourage businesses to stop Facebook advertising campaigns for the month of July, and they provide a list of recommended steps they hope Facebook will implement in the coming weeks and months.
The boycott places Location3 in a challenging position. As experts in digital marketing, it is our job to implement digital strategies for our partners that result in the greatest return on investment. Client success is our primary objective, and some brands’ advertising dollars generate the most return via paid social campaigns on channels like Facebook. But we have also felt the deep call in recent weeks to listen, learn, and act, to better understand how marketing investments and strategies have contributed to systemic oppression, and to be a force for change moving forward. As the boycott gains momentum, we hope to provide comprehensive information about the campaign, its impact, and Facebook’s responses, so that our partners can make informed decisions about what is best for their respective businesses. Here is what we know today:
How Facebook Got Here
#StopHateForProfit started as an ad in the Los Angeles Times and has garnered support from some of our nation’s largest brands. Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Levi’s and Honda-US joined over the weekend, adding their names to the growing list of brands and advertising agencies who will pause Facebook ads in July. Starbucks is the largest advertiser so far to pause spending on the platform, a decision that will likely be a big blow to Facebook. CNN cites an estimate that places Starbucks as the 6th largest advertiser on Facebook in 2019, spending approximately $94.8 million. Some brands, like Starbucks and Coca-Cola, are extending the boycott beyond Facebook to include all social media advertising. Unilever is pulling ad dollars from all social media channels until the end of the year.
Facebook experienced a two-day stock decline on Friday and Monday, with shares dropping 8.3% and 1% respectively. This resulted in a roughly $60 billion decline in market value. Some industry experts believe the boycott won’t cause major damage to Facebook’s revenue, but it could see a financial impact with the increased pressure to invest in safety and security on the platform. Even without major financial repercussions, Facebook has responded to public pressure with a series of policy changes which indicate the movement is having an impact.
Over the past two weeks, Facebook has released policy updates and has vowed that changes are forthcoming. They pledge to take the following actions:
- Creating a Voting Information Campaign: Facebook has set to goal of helping 4 million people register to vote. They have also pledged to create a Voting Information Center, to provide authoritative information about how and when you can vote.
- Tightening policies around voter suppression: Facebook is further tightening their recently updated policies to ban content that misleads people on when or how they can vote. They are also seeking to prevent new forms of voter suppression.
- Preventing voter intimidation on the platform, including a ban on posts that make false claims about polling locations checking for immigration papers.
- Creating better standards for hateful content: Facebook is widening their definition of hateful content to include any form of claim that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status are a threat to others.
- Labeling Political Content that violates policies: content deemed newsworthy that violates Facebook’s policies will continue to be left up but will be labeled.
- Removing any content that incites violence: regardless of source, Facebook will remove content that may lead to violence or voter suppression.
Today, Facebook also held an industry round table for advertising agencies and Location3 was a part of the virtual audience. Carolyn Everson, VP of Global Marketing Solutions, Neil Potts, Public Policy Director, and Guy Rosen, VP of Integrity, discussed what Facebook has been doing to combat hate speech and misinformation and steps they are taking to improve their processes. They spoke of an aligned interest with boycotting groups in removing hate speech from the platform. In summary, they made the following commitments:
- The Media Rating Council (MRC) will audit Facebook’s partner and content monetization policies and the brand-safety controls it makes available to advertisers. The idea is to make sure advertisers are protected against ads displaying next to content deemed inappropriate.
- Facebook is seeking a third-party audit of its Community Standards Enforcement Report.
- The prevalence of hate speech on the platform will be added to the Community Standards Enforcement Report, along with the amount Facebook proactively detects.
- Facebook will continue to work with the Global Alliance for Responsible Media.
- They will work to improve the detection of hate speech on the platform. As of now, they are measuring 89% detection and removal of hate speech and acknowledge room to improve.
- Facebook will continue to work with civil rights groups, and the presenters mentioned they are already working with hundreds of groups to improve the platform. They are also seeking to meet with the boycott leaders.
We applaud those brands and businesses that have demonstrated a commitment to supporting this important movement. As a strategic marketing partner, it is also our duty to share how participation might impact your business, so you can make the most informed decision on how and where you choose to spend your marketing dollars. If you, as a local business owner or enterprise partner, are interested in the movement, we welcome the opportunity to discuss the results your social campaigns are currently driving and the impact they have on your overall revenue. We can also discuss potential alternative channels for advertising that may be of interest at this time. Please consider the following as you evaluate what’s best for you and your business:
- Brands halting their Facebook and Instagram spend are likely redistributing their marketing dollars into other channels.
- If you would like to simply shift your current Facebook budget into different channels, we’d be happy to consult with you on the best approach.
How Can We Help?
If you’d like to learn more about what you can do or are considering pausing your own Facebook ads during July, please contact us so we can discuss a plan that makes sense for your business. If you’re a franchisee, you can also contact our team of Local Marketing Advisors by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline to adjust campaign budgets has been extended. We’ll continue to post updates as this evolves over the coming weeks and remain hopeful that positive changes occur as we go forward.
- Stop Hate For Profit | Product Recommendations | Participating Businesses
- Business Insider – Facebook sees $60 billion in market value erased in just 2 days as advertisers like Starbucks and PepsiCo halt social-media spending
- CNN – Facebook boycott: View the list of companies pulling ads
- Facebook for Business Blog – Where We Stand
- Mark Zuckerburg – Facebook Post
- Media Post – MRC Asked to Audit Facebook Policies, Brand Safety Controls
- Mobile Marketer – Marketers’ Facebook boycotts are just the first step toward change
- Tech Crunch – Unilever and Verizon are the latest companies to pull their advertising from Facebook