The tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, and many others have ignited action all over the world. From self-educating to protesting, people are taking it upon themselves to put an end to racism and injustice.
Likewise, many businesses are using their platform to campaign, educate, and donate in the name of Black Lives Matter. However, not all companies have been so vocal, and one facing particular scrutiny is Facebook.
Perhaps one of the most notable examples of Facebook’s questionable (and frankly, poor) approach to hate speech policing comes in the form of a post by Donald Trump. In May, the President commented on the protests in the wake of George Floyd’s killing, taking to Facebook and Twitter to say “[a]ny difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
The two platforms, Twitter and Facebook, both responded to the tweet in staggeringly different manners. Twitter quickly put a ‘notice of public interest’ on the tweet for violating the platform’s rules. Twitter has a strict policy in which it will not tolerate the glorification of violence, and it showed that it was prepared to act on it, no matter who made the tweet.
Facebook, on the other hand, did nothing.
The Stop Hate for Profit group has shone a spotlight on Facebook’s inaction and other criticisms, citing the following concerns:
“[Facebook] allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and so many others.
They named Breitbart News a “trusted news source” and made The Daily Caller a “fact checker” despite both publications having records of working with known white nationalists.
They turned a blind eye to blatant voter suppression on their platform.”
Stop Hate for Profit is now urging companies that advertise with Facebook to not do so in July, leading to perhaps the largest boycott in Facebook’s history. At the time of writing, the list of businesses that have suspended Facebook advertising is about 93-strong, and includes companies such as The North Face, Patagonia, Upwork, and Viber. The latest and perhaps largest company to join the list is Verizon, which announced its decision on Thursday.
Each company that suspends its advertising is sending a clear message to Facebook, which is to do more to stop hate speech.
The boycott is hitting Facebook right where it hurts. Last year, the social networking platform made around $70 billion through advertising. Whether or not it makes a financial impact, Facebook will still face reputational damage and perhaps even burned bridges with some advertisers.
On 21 June, Facebook shared that it was indeed taking action. Acknowledging that its hate speech policy enforcement is ‘perfect’, Facebook promised to be “taking steps to review [its] policies, ensure diversity and transparency when making decisions on…policies, and advance racial justice and voter engagement on [the] platform.”
While it’s good that the company hasn’t buried its head in the sand, the five days between the post and this article have proven turbulent enough as more businesses cease their July advertising. Facebook will need to walk the walk as well as talk the talk, and quickly, as the longer it takes to work it out, the more bitter the taste left behind.
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