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Will pulling ad revenue from Facebook impact its policies around hate speech and disinformation?

While major corporates have pulled their ads for a month, the social media giant mostly generates ad revenue from small to medium businesses

Sabrangindia 02 Jul 2020

facebook

 

In a bid to get social media giant Facebook to better tackle its policies around hate speech and misinformation, some of the world’s most prominent corporates like Hersheys, Unilever, Ben and Jerry’s, Northface, Coca Cola and Verizon among others boycotted advertising on the platform under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit.

Until now, almost a 100 companies have pulled their advertising dollars from the social network, The Indian Express reported.

 

 

The move came after anti-racism protests erupted across the United States in wake of the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a police officer. As these protests raged, American President Donald Trump dubbed protesters ‘thugs’ and said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”, apparently in response to the protests that erupted demanding justice for Floyd’s death. The post was deemed particularly problematic as it made reference to a racist 1960 police chief who was known for ordering patrolling of black neighbourhoods with shotguns and dogs, The Guardian reported.

While Twitter, in keeping with its guidelines, hid the statement behind a warning which read, “The tweet violated the Twitter rules about glorifying violence; Facebook refused to delete the post from its platform and even from Instagram which is owned by it. In a personal post, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, tried to defend his action of not taking down the post by saying that though the President’s words personally troubled him and that many people were upset that the social media platform didn’t take down the statement, it was left up after a close look at the policies and because their platform encouraged as much expression as possible.

Soon after this, a coalition — comprising Color of Change, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Sleeping Giants, Free Press, Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and Common Sense Media — accused Facebook of doing little to contain the spread of racist content online, The Indian Express reported.

A statement on NAACP’s website read, “The NAACP is concerned with Facebook’s recent tone-deaf response to the growing outcry over its platform’s inaction against hate. While Facebook claims to support ‘free speech,’ in actuality, they are allowing hate speech to run rampant.”

Sleeping Giants also shared campaign group Avaaz’s report on Sunday which read that Facebook had become a “megaphone for hate” in India. Avaaz said the dehumanizing language - often targeting India’s Bengali Muslims - was similar to that used on Facebook about Myanmar’s Rohingya before an army crackdown and ethnic violence forced 700,000 Rohingya to flee in 2017 to Bangladesh, Reuters reported.

Avaaz told Reuters that Facebook depended a lot on artificial intelligence hate speech detection which wasn’t serving the purpose. It suggested that the giant put in place more human-led teams to monitor the content, especially in Assam where it had flagged 800 Facebook posts of which 27 percent constituted hate speech.

Facebook’s response

The Indian Express reported that prior to the public address Zuckerberg made last week, the company had gotten in touch with 200 of its advertisers to tell them that they were working towards narrowing the ‘trust deficit’.

In his address Zuckerberg had said, “I am committed to making sure Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues. But I also stand against hate or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and we’re committed to removing that content too, no matter where it comes from.”

He also said that Facebook would up its efforts to protect the interests of marginalized groups and minorities – migrants, immigrants and refugees among others. However, he also said that the company wouldn’t necessarily take down articles that violated its policies, but would start labelling them. He said that posts that “may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote” will be taken down regardless of who has shared it or whether it is newsworthy.

Unhappy with piecemeal response

However, the #StopHate campaign organizers didn’t seem to be happy with Facebook’s explanation. The NAACP said, “Mark Zuckerberg responded today with a small number of small changes.  He stated that Facebook would apply their hate policy to ads as if it was some new revelation, while not addressing hate more broadly in groups and posts.  Voter misinformation may be a bit harder to spread the day of the election (but still will run rampant the rest of the time). And posts that call for violence will still be allowed if they come from someone “newsworthy” but they will now be labeled.  None of this will be vetted or verified – or make a dent in the problem on the largest social media platform on the planet.”

It issued a list of 10 steps for Facebook to follow in case the company was seriously considering amending its mistakes, including

1.       Establishing and empowering permanent civil rights infrastrure to evaluate products and policies for discrimination, bias and hate,

2.       Submit to a regular, third-party, independent audits of identity-based hate and misinformation with summary results published on a publicly accessible website,

3.       Provide audit of and refund to advertisers whose ads were shown next to content that was later removed for violations of terms of service,

4.       Find and remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism

5.       And, enable individuals facing severe hate and harassment to connect with a live Facebook employee, among others.

 

Impact on Facebook 

As a vast majority of the social media platform’s revenue – almost $70 billion comes from ads, the social boycott could end up hurting the value of the business. It was reported by BBC that the company’s share dropped by 8 percent, but whether or not it poses a threat to its existence is not yet clear.

Some companies have announced that they would be pulling their ads only for a month and this indicates that revenues may go back up after this period. Another noteworthy fact is that a large share of the ad revenue to Facebook comes from thousands of small- to medium-sized businesses, of which a majority have not signed up for the boycott, BBC reported.
 

Hypocrisy of major corporates

Keeping with the view that all of the major companies who have signed up for the boycott haven’t actually closed their Facebook accounts and will actually advertise in the future, shows that these efforts may not really be because they’re socially responsible, but they just are a better thing to do at a time when the economic situation is in the doldrums, wrote Patricio Robles for Econsultancy.com

For example, many have questioned Unilever’s contribution to the #StopHate campaign even while it continues to earn millions from its Fair&Lovely skin fairness cream. It was also pointed out by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut found that beverage companies specifically target African-American youth with ads for sugary drinks that the American Academy of Pediatrics says “contribute to life-shortening chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and obesity”.

Keeping in mind the several aspects of the problem, it is important to understand that ‘cancel culture’ will only go as far. Until there is a systemic change – right from the way companies operate to what they stand for on social media, a boycott campaign is not bound to do much to aid the change it seeks to achieve.


Related:

Facebook refuses to take down Trump’s inciting statement, faces backlash from employees and civil rights leaders

I can't breathe
In the US, some cops take a knee, march with protesters in solidarity

 

 

Will pulling ad revenue from Facebook impact its policies around hate speech and disinformation?

While major corporates have pulled their ads for a month, the social media giant mostly generates ad revenue from small to medium businesses

facebook

 

In a bid to get social media giant Facebook to better tackle its policies around hate speech and misinformation, some of the world’s most prominent corporates like Hersheys, Unilever, Ben and Jerry’s, Northface, Coca Cola and Verizon among others boycotted advertising on the platform under the hashtag #StopHateForProfit.

Until now, almost a 100 companies have pulled their advertising dollars from the social network, The Indian Express reported.

 

 

The move came after anti-racism protests erupted across the United States in wake of the murder of George Floyd, an African-American man, by a police officer. As these protests raged, American President Donald Trump dubbed protesters ‘thugs’ and said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”, apparently in response to the protests that erupted demanding justice for Floyd’s death. The post was deemed particularly problematic as it made reference to a racist 1960 police chief who was known for ordering patrolling of black neighbourhoods with shotguns and dogs, The Guardian reported.

While Twitter, in keeping with its guidelines, hid the statement behind a warning which read, “The tweet violated the Twitter rules about glorifying violence; Facebook refused to delete the post from its platform and even from Instagram which is owned by it. In a personal post, Mark Zuckerberg, the CEO of Facebook, tried to defend his action of not taking down the post by saying that though the President’s words personally troubled him and that many people were upset that the social media platform didn’t take down the statement, it was left up after a close look at the policies and because their platform encouraged as much expression as possible.

Soon after this, a coalition — comprising Color of Change, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Sleeping Giants, Free Press, Anti-Defamation League (ADL), and Common Sense Media — accused Facebook of doing little to contain the spread of racist content online, The Indian Express reported.

A statement on NAACP’s website read, “The NAACP is concerned with Facebook’s recent tone-deaf response to the growing outcry over its platform’s inaction against hate. While Facebook claims to support ‘free speech,’ in actuality, they are allowing hate speech to run rampant.”

Sleeping Giants also shared campaign group Avaaz’s report on Sunday which read that Facebook had become a “megaphone for hate” in India. Avaaz said the dehumanizing language - often targeting India’s Bengali Muslims - was similar to that used on Facebook about Myanmar’s Rohingya before an army crackdown and ethnic violence forced 700,000 Rohingya to flee in 2017 to Bangladesh, Reuters reported.

Avaaz told Reuters that Facebook depended a lot on artificial intelligence hate speech detection which wasn’t serving the purpose. It suggested that the giant put in place more human-led teams to monitor the content, especially in Assam where it had flagged 800 Facebook posts of which 27 percent constituted hate speech.

Facebook’s response

The Indian Express reported that prior to the public address Zuckerberg made last week, the company had gotten in touch with 200 of its advertisers to tell them that they were working towards narrowing the ‘trust deficit’.

In his address Zuckerberg had said, “I am committed to making sure Facebook remains a place where people can use their voice to discuss important issues. But I also stand against hate or anything that incites violence or suppresses voting, and we’re committed to removing that content too, no matter where it comes from.”

He also said that Facebook would up its efforts to protect the interests of marginalized groups and minorities – migrants, immigrants and refugees among others. However, he also said that the company wouldn’t necessarily take down articles that violated its policies, but would start labelling them. He said that posts that “may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote” will be taken down regardless of who has shared it or whether it is newsworthy.

Unhappy with piecemeal response

However, the #StopHate campaign organizers didn’t seem to be happy with Facebook’s explanation. The NAACP said, “Mark Zuckerberg responded today with a small number of small changes.  He stated that Facebook would apply their hate policy to ads as if it was some new revelation, while not addressing hate more broadly in groups and posts.  Voter misinformation may be a bit harder to spread the day of the election (but still will run rampant the rest of the time). And posts that call for violence will still be allowed if they come from someone “newsworthy” but they will now be labeled.  None of this will be vetted or verified – or make a dent in the problem on the largest social media platform on the planet.”

It issued a list of 10 steps for Facebook to follow in case the company was seriously considering amending its mistakes, including

1.       Establishing and empowering permanent civil rights infrastrure to evaluate products and policies for discrimination, bias and hate,

2.       Submit to a regular, third-party, independent audits of identity-based hate and misinformation with summary results published on a publicly accessible website,

3.       Provide audit of and refund to advertisers whose ads were shown next to content that was later removed for violations of terms of service,

4.       Find and remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism

5.       And, enable individuals facing severe hate and harassment to connect with a live Facebook employee, among others.

 

Impact on Facebook 

As a vast majority of the social media platform’s revenue – almost $70 billion comes from ads, the social boycott could end up hurting the value of the business. It was reported by BBC that the company’s share dropped by 8 percent, but whether or not it poses a threat to its existence is not yet clear.

Some companies have announced that they would be pulling their ads only for a month and this indicates that revenues may go back up after this period. Another noteworthy fact is that a large share of the ad revenue to Facebook comes from thousands of small- to medium-sized businesses, of which a majority have not signed up for the boycott, BBC reported.
 

Hypocrisy of major corporates

Keeping with the view that all of the major companies who have signed up for the boycott haven’t actually closed their Facebook accounts and will actually advertise in the future, shows that these efforts may not really be because they’re socially responsible, but they just are a better thing to do at a time when the economic situation is in the doldrums, wrote Patricio Robles for Econsultancy.com

For example, many have questioned Unilever’s contribution to the #StopHate campaign even while it continues to earn millions from its Fair&Lovely skin fairness cream. It was also pointed out by the Rudd Center for Food Policy & Obesity at the University of Connecticut found that beverage companies specifically target African-American youth with ads for sugary drinks that the American Academy of Pediatrics says “contribute to life-shortening chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver disease, and obesity”.

Keeping in mind the several aspects of the problem, it is important to understand that ‘cancel culture’ will only go as far. Until there is a systemic change – right from the way companies operate to what they stand for on social media, a boycott campaign is not bound to do much to aid the change it seeks to achieve.


Related:

Facebook refuses to take down Trump’s inciting statement, faces backlash from employees and civil rights leaders

I can't breathe
In the US, some cops take a knee, march with protesters in solidarity

 

 

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