As more big-name brands join the campaign to pause their Facebook ad spend in July, in protest over The Social Network's inaction to address hate speech on its platform, Facebook has admitted that it has a deepening 'trust deficit' with ad partners, which it will need to address.
Last week, a coalition of civil rights groups launched a new campaign calling on major advertisers to pause their Facebook ad spend in order to send a message to the company that its lack of action on hate speech is not good enough.
As Facebook continues its failure to meaningfully address the spread of hate on its platforms we join @NAACP, @slpng_giants, @freepress, @CommonSense and @ColorOfChange in calling for a one-month ad pause for July. Facebook must #StopHateforProfit: https://t.co/DjiGaZFgCk pic.twitter.com/orrKFcGw5R— ADL (@ADL) June 17, 2020
The main focus of the push is a set of recent comments from US President Donald Trump, including this one below, which Facebook has chosen to leave up on the platform in the public interest.
Civil rights groups have called for Facebook to follow Twitter's lead, and draw a definitive line that cannot be crossed in on-platform discussion, even by The President.
At the launch of the #StopHateforProfit campaign, The North Face pledged its support, and now Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s and Magnolia Pictures have publicly announced that they too will pause their Facebook and Instagram campaigns in July.
It's not a massive wave of advertisers as yet, and it won't hurt Facebook in a revenue sense. But it will have perceptual impacts, and could spark more backlash from the platform's partners.
Facebook knows this. This week, Facebook participated in a conference call with almost 200 advertisers, in which the platform’s Director of Public Policy Neil Potts noted that:
“There is a trust deficit. You try to make a decision and people disagree and maybe that builds that deficit even deeper."
In essence, Potts has acknowledged that Facebook's stance on political speech could lead to major impacts for the company. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has already stated that it will review its approach to such content, but no changes have been implemented as yet. Facebook's also getting closer to launching its Content Oversight Board, a selection of independent experts that will help to guide its policy decisions. But that's still a few months away - and importantly, the Oversight Board will not be in place ahead of the 2020 US Presidential Election.
That puts Facebook in an increasingly difficult position. Right now, Zuck and Co are standing firm, despite Twitter's continued efforts to enforce its rules, and despite the push by the US Government to reform laws that protect social platforms from liability over what users post.
Facebook is holding to its original principle - but if more advertisers reduce ad spend, at a time when Facebook is already seeing a slowdown in ads due to the expanded impacts of COVID-19, at some point, Facebook will need to listen.
It seems, overall, like the #StopHateforProfit campaign won't have any major, long-lasting impacts. But it is gaining momentum. And given the additional pressures, it may yet force Facebook's hand.