1 July 2020

by Spark Eighteen

How hate speech on social media is affecting advertising


A mounting number of atrocities today has raised questions about the role of social media platforms in guarding online speech and Facebook seems to be at the center of this chaos. In response to the failure of policing hate speech on social media platform Facebook, a growing number of brands like Starbucks, Unilever, Microsoft, and Reebok have boycotted Facebook and Instagram ads completely.

The Background

A month ago protests started to ensue across the west in response to the police killing of George Floyd. In response, Mark Zuckerberg shared a long and profound post on his Facebook page, condemning racial bias and adding his bit to the Black Lives Matter movement. This was followed by him making a donation of $10 million to racial justice organizations.

Twitter and YouTube unfolded a similar show of support later.

While this show of support was well-intended, Facebook failed to ensure that its platform itself isn’t being used as a weapon by racist agitators to subvert social justice movements (including Black Lives Matter).

facebook logo

Some of the loudest voices on the platform are the ones who aim to scorn and undermine social justice movements – rather than supporting them.

In fact, according to data from CrowdTangle (a Facebook-owned data platform),

7 of the 10 most-shared Facebook posts containing the phrase “Black Lives Matter” over the past month were critical of the movement.

Facebook refused to comment.

The Response

On June 17, a coalition consisting of Color Of Change, NAACP, ADL, Sleeping Giants, Free Press, and Common Sense Media started the Stop Hate For Profit campaign.

It called on advertisers to hit pause on ad spending on Facebook and Instagram, starting July 2020 to demand that Facebook address changes across their platforms.

stop hate for profit

After a number of small brands said they will pause paying ad dollars to Facebook, The North Face became the first major brand to stand-out and encourage other brands to stop running ads on Facebook and Instagram at lease until the end of July. Companies then one-by-one decided to join the throng of other businesses to pull their marketing dollars from the platform. These include heavy spenders like Verizon, Microsoft, and Coca Cola.

Giants like Starbucks and Diageo also jumped to the list later.

These two are among the biggest spenders on Facebook ads – spending $95 million and $23 million respectively on the platform last year. 

According to the campaign organizers, if Facebook fails to make any major changes then the next step will be to take the battle outside the US.

What impact does the boycotting have on Facebook?

To answer it in one word – MAJOR.

Right after ten days of the campaign’s release, Facebook’s market value dropped by more than 8%, decreasing to about $72 billion. (Source: sCommerce)

For a frame of reference, Facebook generated nearly $102 billion in advertising sales last year. (Source: Facebook)

It’s safe to say that the Stop Hate For Profit campaign is sending a strong message to Facebook.

Just within hours of Unilever (one of the biggest investors of Facebook ads) deciding to pause its spending on Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg came on FB live and announced plans on prohibiting hate speech on the platform.  This includes banning content that is misleading, labeling posts that provide accurate information, and other significant measures.

The company also acknowledged that it is going to team up with civil rights groups and experts to develop more tools to fight hate speech on social media platform.

But, even after these concessions, the Stop Hate For Profit campaign is still running strong.

Can marketers afford Facebook ads boycott?

Facebook holds a leading presence in the digital marketing space.

According to eMarketer, Facebook is one of the most affordable and effective ways to reach your target audience.

With its exceptional reach and unparalleled targeting capabilities, it becomes the most valuable medium to boycott.

Especially to small businesses that make up the bulk of Facebook’s 7 million advertisers. They can’t afford to pause spending on the platform.

Shutting down Facebook advertising even for a month can pose a great threat to online brands who rely on Facebook ads to drive a bulk of their traffic and revenue. Boycotting this social media platform can also give your competitors much space to shine who may not be as compassionate as you.

But, what about you? What do you think is the best way to go about this? Would you or have you banned an important asset like Facebook ads to show your support? Let us know in the comments below!

Spark Eighteen

Spark Eighteen is a brainchild of innovative young minds and a group of alarmingly out-of-the-box thinkers who happen to see the world of marketing from a new age perspective. With a proven expertise in the field of Brand consulting, Digital Marketing and Website Design and Development, our team of designers, developers, and creative heads work towards delivering maximum results, tailor-made to all your business needs.
Spark Eighteen

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