Beer and spirits company Diageo is pressing pause on paid advertising on major social media platforms globally beginning 1 July, amidst a series of recent Facebook ad boycotts that include companies such as Coca-Cola and Unilever. In a statement to Marketing, Diageo's spokesperson said it strives to promote inclusion and diversity, including through its marketing campaigns.
"From 1 July we will pause all paid advertising globally on major social media platforms. We will continue to discuss with media partners how they will deal with unacceptable content," the spokesperson added. The latest move by Diageo comes as the campaign "Stop Hate for Profit" is gaining steam online. The campaign was recently launched by six organisations in the US, including the Anti-Defamation League and the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People, and plans to call on organisations in Europe to follow suit, Reuters reported.
Besides Diageo, Coca-Cola has also paused its paid advertising on social media platforms worldwide for at least 30 days. Chairman and CEO James Quincey said there is no place for racism in the world and on social media. "We will take this time to reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed. We also expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners," he added.
Meanwhile, media outlets including Channel NewsAsia and Fox Business News said Pepsi is also allegedly joining the growing list of companies that are temporarily halting Facebook ad spend globally. Separately in the US, Ben & Jerry's, Unilever, Verizon, The North Face, Starbucks, Hershey's, and Patagonia have also followed suit in the latest Facebook ad boycott.
A statement on the campaign's website requested businesses to temporarily pause advertising on Facebook and Instagram in order to force CEO Mark Zuckerberg to address the effect that Facebook has had on the society. The statement also listed ideas concerning accountability, decency, and support which the organisations hope Facebook will agree and implement over the next month. According to the campaign, Facebook "allowed incitement to violence against protesters" fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and so many others. The campaign also alleged that Facebook had "turned a blind eye to blatant voter suppression" on its platform, adding that while Facebook could protect and support Black users as well as call out Holocaust denial as hate, it is "actively choosing not to do so". "Let’s send Facebook a powerful message: Your profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence," the campaign website said.
Following the ad boycott, Bloomberg reported that Zuckerberg lost about US$7 billion after Facebook shares dropped 8.3% last Friday. According to Bloomberg, the drop came after Unilever announced that it would stop spending money with Facebook's properties in 2020.
Over the weekend, Zuckerberg responded to mounting criticism, explaining in a Facebook post that the company is expanding its ads policy to prohibit claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others.
"We are also expanding our policies to better protect immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers from ads suggesting these groups are inferior or expressing contempt, dismissal or disgust directed at them," he added. This is in an effort on Facebook's part to prohibit divisive and inflammatory language that has been used to sow discord. He added that the company will soon start labelling some of the content it leaves up because it is deemed newsworthy, so users can know when this is the case.
"We will allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what's acceptable in our society - but we'll add a prompt to tell people that the content they're sharing may violate our policies," he said.
Zuckerberg added that there is no newsworthiness exemption to content that incites violence or suppresses voting. Even if a politician or government official says it, if Facebook determines that content may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote, Zuckerberg said it will take that content down. Similarly, there are also no exceptions for politicians.
He explained that he stands against hate or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting and that Facebook is committed to removing that no matter where it comes from. "We're continuing to review our policies, and we'll keep working with outside experts and civil rights organizations to adjust our approach as new risks emerge. I'm optimistic that we can make progress on public health and racial justice while maintaining our democratic traditions around free expression and voting," Zuckerberg added.
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