The boycott of Facebook by major advertisers is driving down the social media giant’s share price and the personal fortune of its chief executive. Mark Zuckerberg’s fortune fell by $7.21 billion on Saturday (June 27th), while Facebook’s share price fell more than 8% at the close of trading last Friday. Coca-Cola was the latest brand to support the #StopHateforProfit campaign, launched earlier this month by American civil rights groups.
The online campaign aims to pressure Facebook’s major advertisers to rethink their advertising spending on the platform until it implements stricter moderation policies. Last week, major companies, including Unilever, Hershey Co, The North Face and Verizon, either stopped running ads on Facebook and other social networks.
Coca-Cola chief executive James Quincey said Friday that the company will suspend all social media ads for 30 days while it rethinks its policy. “Coca-Cola will suspend paid advertising on social media platforms around the world for at least 30 days. We will take this time to re-evaluate our advertising policies to determine if revisions are needed. We also expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners.”
To understand the origin of the boycott campaign, we have to go back to May 25, when George Floyd, a 46-year-old Afro-American, died after being stopped by a white Minneapolis police officer. Subsequently, the video of his death, widely shared on social media, sparked global emotion and protests in several countries against police violence and racism. The #StopHateforProfit campaign was launched on June 19 and was triggered by Facebook’s refusal to remove a message from Donald Trump in which he threatened American protesters with violent repression. After calling the protesters “thugs”, the US President wrote in his post, “When the looting begins, the gunfire begins”.
The pressure seems to be paying off. On Friday night, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would now label messages from politicians who break its rules, such as hate speech or violence. They will now be accompanied by the words “worthy of public interest.” This is a significant change, given that society has so far refused to moderate the messages of politicians.
Tanya Dua, a journalist for Business Insider US, also reported that Facebook’s advertising team is trying to appease advertisers who are fleeing the platform by explaining that the company is serious about addressing their concerns about hate speech and that it has committed to having its moderation policy audited by a third party. In addition, advertising accounts for almost 100% of Facebook’s revenue, with the company making $17.4 billion in advertising sales in the first three months of this year.
The civil rights groups behind the #StopHateforProfit campaign, the NAACP (the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League, have called on Facebook to take stronger action. “They have apologized in the past. They took mea-to-small action after each disaster in which their platform played a role. But it has to stop now.”