Outdoor apparel companies Patagonia, REI and The North Face are the first brands to commit to an advertising boycott of Facebook, called for by a collection of civil rights groups in response to the social network's "failure" to prevent the spread of hate speech on its platforms.
Six civil rights groups – including the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Colors of Change, Free Press and Common Sense – have all rallied behind a campaign that calls on advertisers to suspend marketing activity on Facebook during the month of July. They hope holding ad dollars ransom will pressure the tech giant to take more affirmative action to prevent the spread of hate speech and misinformation across its platforms.
The #StopHateForProfit campaign was first launched on Wednesday (17 June) and specifically calls out the fact that Facebook made a portion of its $70bn in annual ad revenue in 2019, as well as $18.5bn in profit, from companies that use the platform to sow misinformation and hate.
Anti-Defamation League chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt said in a press release announcing the campaign that the organisations have tried individually and collectively to push Facebook to make its platforms safer, but that the company has "repeatedly failed to take meaningful action".
"We have long seen how Facebook has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and our lives," Greenblatt said. "When this hate spreads online it causes tremendous harm and also becomes permissible offline. We hope this campaign finally shows Facebook how much their users and their advertisers want them to make serious changes for the better."
According to the ADL's 2019 survey of Americans using social media, more than 55% of Facebook users reported experiencing hate and harassment on the platform – the most of all social media platforms.
NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson said of the campaign: "Facebook remains unwilling to take significant steps to remove political propaganda from its platform. It is clear that Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are no longer simply negligent but, in fact, complacent in the spread of misinformation, despite the irreversible damage to our democracy. Such actions will upend the integrity of our elections as we head into 2020. We will not stand for this. While we recognise the value that Facebook provides in connecting people of colour with one another, we call into question a platform that profits from the suppression of black votes or black voices."
The North Face and REI (Recreational Equipment Inc) were the first brands to announce they had joined the boycott.
Patagonia joined the cause on Sunday (June 21), announcing it will pull all ads on Facebook and Instagram "effective immediately" pending "meaningful action" Facebook.
Patagonia is proud to join the Stop Hate for Profit campaign. We will pull all ads on Facebook and Instagram, effective immediately, through at least the end of July, pending meaningful action from the social media giant.— Patagonia (@patagonia) June 21, 2020
Dentsu Inc's New York-based digital agency 360i emailed clients last week urging them to stop purchasing ads on Facebook, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The boycott comes in response to Facebook's handling of the #BlackLivesMatter movement in the wake of George Floyd's death. The social network faced heavy criticism for not removing a post by President Donald Trump, which included the comment: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts." Several advocacy groups – and Facebook's own employees – said the post incited violence, but Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said it did not violate the platform's policies.
Facebook said it removed some posts and ads from President Trump’s re-election campaign because they violated its "organised hate" policy, and then deleted a "racist baby" video over a copyright complaint.