Facebook’s ad revenue will take a dip this month, as hundreds of major brands have in recent days announced that they were joining a boycott organized by grassroots activists and pausing their advertising on the platform until the social media giant rectified its problematic policies on hate speech and misinformation.
While the boycott may not make a significant dent in the company’s income, global brands such as Pepsi and Coca-Cola publicly calling for the platform to change is a big deal. And after a team of top Facebook executives failed to talk those advertisers out of it, CEO Mark Zuckerberg finally agreed to meet with the civil rights groups behind the boycott and hear what they want, a spokesperson confirmed to Reuters late Tuesday.
Those groups, including Anti-Defamation League, NAACP, Color of Change and Sleeping Giants, launched a campaign called “Stop Hate for Profit” on June 17, asking Facebook advertisers to stop spending on the company’s platforms so as to pressure Facebook to take action on hate speech and misinformation, including recent inflammatory posts by President Donald Trump. The campaign has so far recruited over 100 participants.
On Tuesday, a team of Zuckerberg’s top lieutenants, including head of global marketing solutions Carolyn Everson and public policy director Neil Potts, held at least two meetings with withdrawing advertisers, per Reuters, in an attempt to get them to stay. But the advertisers were totally unfazed.
“It’s simply not moving,” one advertising executive who attended the talks told Reuters of Facebook’s stance on tackling harmful content.
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The boycott’s organizers have a long list of other demands, too. Besides rewriting content policy, they also want Facebook to hire a C-level executive with civil rights expertise, conduct a third-party audit of hate speech and misinformation, give refunds to clients whose ads show up next to offensive content (even if it’s later removed) and provide bias training to human content moderators, among other things.
So far, Facebook has only agreed to the auditing request. The company said earlier this week that it would conduct an audit of its hate speech controls, following plans announced last week to start labeling newsworthy but potentially harmful content, like Twitter recently did.
Also on Tuesday, inspired by the escalating advertiser exodus, three Democratic senators—Robert Menendez, Mazie Hirono and Mark Warner—sent a letter to Zuckerberg, specifically taking issue with Facebook’s role in enabling white supremacist groups to recruit members and organize racist events through its platform. In the letter, they asked Facebook to disclose information on the company’s efforts to combat hate speech and white supremacy. Zuckerberg will have until July 10 to respond to the senators.
When Zuckerberg meets with the boycott organizers, Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Chief Product Officer Chris Cox will also be at the table. “We’re waiting to hear back and look forward to the opportunity to continue the dialogue,” a Facebook spokesperson said.