Facebook – Last Year’s Advertising Boycott Of Facebook Led To Change—But Not Where You Think, Report Finds
The boycott of Facebook last summer by thousands of companies demanding a sweeping crackdown on misinformation and hate speech led to limited change on that platform, but did cause promising progress at other social media sites, concluded one of the campaign’s organizers in a report published Thursday.
The report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)—one of multiple civil rights groups involved in launching the #StopHateForProfit campaign last June—analyzed the success of the boycott in realizing its goals a year later.
Facebook did make two “significant” changes responding to boycott demands: hiring civil rights leaders to evaluate discrimination and bias, and cracking down on extremism in both public and private groups.
But efforts to stamp out hate and misinformation are falling short, the report notes, as harmful falsehoods ran rampant after the 2020 election, Holocaust-denial posts still circulate, and users continue to report identity-based harassment and abuse.
Twitter, YouTube and TikTok were all rated more favorably for instituting a greater number of “significant changes,” like Twitter’s removal of posts with links to external websites (which led to the deplatforming of white upremacist David Duke) and TikTok’s rollout of resources for users targeted by hate and harassment.
The most highly-rated social media platform of all was Reddit, which the ADL lauded for moving “swiftly” to deplatform former President Donald Trump when he spread election fraud lies and combat anti-Semitism in the popular r/Wallstreetbets subreddit.
Though Facebook enacted “some common-sense changes to its platform,” the efforts have “not yet yielded meaningful change in the way the platform operates,” the report concluded. As a result, “Some of the biggest wins came not from Facebook, but from other social media platforms that were not targeted by the campaign—but clearly hoped to avoid such targeting.”
The #StopHateForProfit boycott was started last summer amid outrage over Facebook’s content moderation policies, including its refusal to regulate a post from Trump in the midst of racial justice unrest that said, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” After its June 17 launch, the boycott quickly drew the participation of “thousands” of companies, according to the ADL, including big-name brands like Pfizer, Best Buy, Ford, Adidas and Starbucks. Some of these companies pledged a short pause on advertising spending, while others vowed to cut off funding for the rest of the year or until Facebook made tangible changes. A New York Times analysis found that while the protest reduced spending by millions of dollars for one month, it ultimately didn’t lead to any significant damage to the platform’s revenue. Though it originally resisted pressure from the boycott, Facebook later agreed to campaign demands. However, as the ADL report highlights, it is yet to deliver on many of them, like the release of third-party audits on hate and misinformation and the institution of new policies removing certain exemptions from moderation rules for public figures.
While Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Fintech Zoom, top executives, including CEO Mark Zuckerberg, have repeatedly emphasized that a vast majority of misinformation and hate speech is identified and taken down from the platform. In November of last year, Mike Schroepfer, Facebook’s chief technology officer, revealed that 94.7% of hate speech gets removed from Facebook (up from 80.5% in 2019 and 24% in 2017). “Our goal is to spot hate speech, misinformation, and other forms of policy-violating content quickly and accurately, for every form of content, and for every language and community around the world,” Schroepfer wrote in a blog post at the time.
Part of the reason smaller companies like TikTok and Reddit are outperforming Facebook, Twitter and YouTube is because content moderation at the massive scales of the latter companies necessitates the use of automated tools, the ADL highlights, “But as we’ve seen, artificial intelligence is nowhere near capable of effectively stamping out online hate speech and disinformation.”
“Facebook Responds As LEGO, Dunkin Donuts Join Over 500 Companies In Growing Boycott” (Fintech Zoom)
“Facebook Ad Boycott Campaign ‘Stop Hate For Profit’ Gathers Momentum And Scale: Inside The Movement For Change” (Fintech Zoom)