Opinions expressed in this piece belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of AMEinfo.
By now, everyone has heard of the advertiser boycott of Facebook that has been brewing over the past few days. The list of advertisers partaking has increased rapidly over this short period of time, and now includes Chipotle, HP, Pfizer, Unilver, Puma, Adidas, Clorox, Coca-Cola, Conagra, Denny’s, Ford, and Starbucks, among others. In total, more than 200 brands have pledged their support of the boycott, under the “Stop Hate For Profit” campaign. The boycott kicks off today, July 1st.
You can find the full demands here.
Facebook has already felt the sting of this movement. As of Monday, the company had already seen $60 billion of its market value disappear almost overnight. CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself took a $7 billion hit to his net worth, too.
The money Facebook will lose from departing is likely to be significant. After all, the company generated nearly $70 billion in ad revenue in 2019, 98.5% of its total annual revenue, according to Statista. While most of this comes from small businesses, large players like Coca-Cola, Starbucks and others will leave a significant dent on earnings by the end of the fiscal quarter, if not fiscal year.
The Facebook Adpocalypse has been a long-time coming, after years of questionable decisions on the handling of biased and harmful content on the US company’s platform, especially at a time when other social media companies were taking more active measures to protect their users.
Political content kickstarts the Facebook Adpocalypse
Just last month, we happened to discuss one of the now-apparent causes of this campaign: biased and/or inaccurate political advertising. We can’t have this conversation without mentioning US President Donald Trump, whose actions have somewhat been the catalyst for this boycott.
At the time, we were discussing how some of the world’s largest social media brands were handling censorship of President’s Trump’s content. Of those we looked at, Facebook was the most laissez-faire, its top executive Mark Zuckerberg often stating that his company shouldn’t censor content or take sides, especially given things like political content and advertising. We shouldn’t be the “arbiters of truth,” he said.
All the while, Facebook’s rivals had taken the opposite stance, to varying degrees. Snapchat decided to no longer promote President Trump’s content on their Discover page, while not entirely censoring or removing his content. Twitter meanwhile had labeled two of his tweets with a fact check label, while censoring another for “glorifying violence” in a warning to users.
Since then, streaming platform Twitch joined in on censorship efforts, temporarily banning Trump’s account from its platform for “hateful conduct.” Reddit pitched in too, taking down a subreddit (a forum dedicated to a particular topic) of Trump followers, over 800,000 in number, for violating the platform’s rules against harassment, hate speech and content manipulation.
Recently, we saw Facebook finally take some form of action against questionable content on its site.
“In recent days, Facebook removed ads from Mr. Trump’s re-election campaign that featured a red triangular symbol used by the Nazis during World War II,” The New York Times reported. “The company also announced that it would gradually allow users to opt out of seeing political ads. [Last month, Facebook] acknowledged in a blog post that its enforcement of content rules ‘isn’t perfect.'”
#BlackLivesMatter, US elections triggers too
To be fair to the US President, he hasn’t been the sole reason behind this mass action. Mass civil rights protests sparked by the death of an African American man, George Floyd, in an act of blatant police brutality, have also reignited the conversation regarding censorship of harmful hate speech on social media platforms, which Floyd’s death ignited. The protests led to looting and destruction, and eventually the movement spilled over to other countries in the world, such as the UK.
Today, many see this as another catalyst for the advertiser boycott, as many companies had adopted the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag in their publicity material (whether genuinely or as a mere PR stunt) in recent weeks. With the US elections coming up this year too, creating a callback to the 2016 Cambridge Analytica scandal that Facebook enabled, social media platforms are in the spotlight now more than they’ve ever been.