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Exclusive: Facebook ad boycott campaign to go global, organizers say

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Organizers of a Facebook Inc advertising boycott campaign that has drawn support from a rapidly expanding list of major companies are now preparing to take the battle global to increase pressure on the social media company to remove hate speech.

FILE PHOTO: A 3D-printed Facebook logo is seen placed on a keyboard in this illustration taken March 25, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

29 Jun 2020 01:30AM

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REUTERS: Organizers of a Facebook Inc advertising boycott campaign that has drawn support from a rapidly expanding list of major companies are now preparing to take the battle global to increase pressure on the social media company to remove hate speech.

The "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign will begin calling on major companies in Europe to join the boycott, Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, said in an interview with Reuters on Saturday. Since the campaign launched earlier this month, more than 160 companies, including Verizon Communications and Unilever Plc , have signed on to stop buying ads on the worlds largest social media platform for the month of July.

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Free Press and Common Sense, along with U.S. civil rights groups Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League, launched the campaign following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis police.

"The next frontier is global pressure," Steyer said, adding the campaign hopes to embolden regulators in Europe to take a harder stance on Facebook. The European Commission in June announced new guidelines for tech companies including Facebook to submit monthly reports on how they are handling coronavirus misinformation.

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The outrage in the United States over the death of Floyd has led to an unprecedented reaction from corporations around the world. Its impact has been felt beyond U.S. borders. Unilever, for example, changed the name of a skin-lightening product popular in India called Fair and Lovely.

The global campaign will proceed as organizers continue to urge more U.S. companies to participate. Jessica Gonzalez, co-chief executive of Free Press, said she has contacted major U.S. telecommunications and media companies to ask them to join the campaign.

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Responding to demands for more action, Facebook on Sunday acknowledged it has more work to do and is teaming up with civil rights groups and experts to develop more tools to fight hate speech. Facebook said its investments in artificial intelligence have allowed it to find 90per cent of hate speech before users report it.

Expanding the campaign outside the United States will take a bigger slice off of Facebooks advertising revenue but is not likely have major financial impact. Unilever, for instance, on Friday committed to pausing its U.S. spending on Facebook for the rest of the year. That only accounts for about 10per cent of its overall estimated US$250 million it spends on Facebook advertising annually, according to Richard Greenfield of LightShed Partners, a media and tech research firm.

Steyer said they will urge global advertisers such as Unilever and Honda, which have only committed to pausing U.S. ads, to pull their Facebook ads globally.

Annually, Facebook generates US$70 billion in advertising sales and about a quarter of it comes from big companies such as Unilever with the vast majority of its revenue derived from small businesses.

But the publicity around its hate speech policies have hurt its perception and stock. On Friday, Facebook's 8.3per cent decline in stock price wiped out US$56 billion in maRead More – Source