Show an ad over header. AMP

As boycott grows, Facebook juggles rights groups and advertisers

As an advertiser boycott of Facebook over its tolerance of hate speech continues to snowball, the company has begun making small, incremental changes to mollify activists while it tries to buy time to evolve its content policies.

Driving the news: Sources tell Axios that the product and policy changes sought by the #StopHateForProfit campaign were long under discussion both inside Facebook and with some external groups. Meanwhile, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has reportedly told employees that the boycotting advertisers will be back before long.


What we’re hearing: Before the boycott started, Facebook had been in touch with the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), with whom Facebook and its COO Sheryl Sandberg have a longstanding relationship. The ADL often provides input on Facebook’s policies, including its policies on hate speech.

Details: Facebook has been having private conversations about curbing hate speech with civil rights groups and marketing industry leaders for months.

  • After the company's decision in May not to remove a post from President Trump that many thought incited violence in the wake of George Floyd's death and the ensuing protests, civil rights groups criticized Zuckerberg and the company for not taking action.
  • The leaders then decided to go public with a boycott to pressure the tech giant to move faster.

Driving the news: In the past few days, the company has ramped up internal and external communications about the boycott.

  • Facebook's global sales leader Carolyn Everson has been on calls with advertisers to assure them that Facebook has been listening to their concerns about hate speech and working to come up with solutions to address them, sources tell Axios.
  • Michael Kassan, founder and CEO of the powerhouse media advisory firm MediaLink, said he's been involved in several conversations with Facebook about this issue on an ongoing basis.
  • "I think Facebook is trying," he said, "I know the effort and the intensity is real and I know the intent is right. Whether they can act fast enough remains to be seen."
  • Kassan notes that Everson's respect among marketers will help the company get through the situation, but that ultimately, brands are feeling strong public pressure to act on this issue.
  • "If you're a marketer and you don't participate in the boycott, you're going to get trolled in a different way," he said, noting the difficult position brands are in. He said that many marketers are "apologetic" right now towards Facebook, noting that they feel pressured to join the boycott, even if they don't normally like to negotiate that way.
  • In a video town hall meeting with employees last week, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg reportedly told staffers that he thinks the boycotts are a repetitional issue more than a revenue issue and that he expects the departed advertisers to return "soon enough," per The Information.

Facebook has taken several steps over the past few days to publicly address the controversy over its policies. By the end of June, over 400 companies, including major Fortune 500 firms like Unilever, CVS and Verizon, said they would be boycotting the brand.

  • On Wednesday, Nick Clegg,the company's VP of global affairs and communications, penned a post describing the company's view of its progress on eliminating hate speech on its platforms.
  • It also posted a blog post describing the work it's doing in response to the nine recommendations outlined by the #StopHateforProfit boycott organizers, which includes the ADL, along with Color for Change, Common Sense Media and NAACP.
  • Facebook will meet with the boycott's organizers, as Reuters reported and a company spokesperson confirmed to Axios. That will happen Monday or Tuesday, the ADL confirmed to Reuters.
  • Last week, Zuckerberg said Facebook will begin labeling posts that break its rules but are deemed "newsworthy" because they come from public figures.

What's next: Sources say that results from the company's third civil rights audit, which addresses many of the concerns from the civil rights groups, will be announced alongside more changes to its policies in the next few weeks.

Kaine, Collins' censure resolution could bar Trump from holding office again

Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) are forging ahead with a draft proposal to censure former President Trump, and are considering introducing the resolution on the Senate floor next week.

Why it matters: Senators are looking for a way to condemn Trump on the record as it becomes increasingly unlikely Democrats will obtain the 17 Republican votes needed to gain a conviction, Axios Alayna Treene writes. "I think it’s important for the Senate's leadership to understand that there are alternatives," Kaine told CNN on Wednesday.

Keep reading... Show less

"Roz" Brewer will become only the 2nd Black woman to permanently lead a Fortune 500 company

Rosalind "Roz" Brewer is about to become only the second Black woman to permanently lead a Fortune 500 company. She starts as Walgreens CEO on March 15.

Why it matters: It's a stark reminder of how far corporate America's top decision-makers have to go during an unprecedented push by politicians, employees and even a stock exchange to diversify their top ranks.

Keep reading... Show less

Apple's quarterly sales top $100 billion for first time

Spurred by strong sales of the latest iPhones, Apple reported it took in a record $111 billion in revenue for the three months ended Dec. 31, as the company crushed expectations.

Why it matters: The move showed even a pandemic didn't dull demand for Apple's latest smartphones.

Keep reading... Show less

Facebook stock whipsaws amid ad targeting concerns

Facebook's stock showed volatility in after-hours trading Wednesday, despite adding users and beating on top and bottom lines.

Why it matters: Investors seem spooked by proposed changes to user data collection by Apple that would impact Facebook's ad business, in addition to perennial threats of new federal privacy regulations.

Keep reading... Show less

Fed chair says low interest rates aren't driving stock market prices

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell told reporters on Wednesday that rock-bottom interest rates aren't playing a role in driving stock prices higher, while noting that vulnerabilities to the financial system are "moderate."

Why it matters: The statement comes amid unshakeable stock prices and a Reddit-fueled market frenzy — prompting widespread fears of a bubble and the role monetary policy has played in that.

Keep reading... Show less

Biden freezes U.S. arms deals with Saudi Arabia and UAE

The Biden administration has put on hold two big arms deals with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates which were approved in the final weeks of the Trump administration, a State Department official told me.

Why it matters: The sales of F-35 jets and attack drones to the UAE and a large supply of munitions to Saudi Arabia will be paused pending a review. That signals a major policy shift from the Trump era, and may herald sharp tensions with both Gulf countries.

Keep reading... Show less

Podcast: Robert Downey Jr. launches VC funds to help save the planet

Robert Downey Jr. on Wednesday announced the launch of two venture capital funds focused on startups in the sustainability sector, the latest evolution of a project he launched two years ago called Footprint Collective.

Between the lines: This is a bit of life imitating art, as Downey Jr. spent 11 films portraying a character who sought to save the planet (or, in some cases, the universe).

Keep reading... Show less

DHS warns of "heightened threat" because of domestic extremism

The Department of Homeland Security on Wednesday issued an advisory warning of a "heightened threat environment" in the U.S. because of "ideologically-motivated violent extremists."

Why it matters: DHS believes the threat of violence "will persist in the weeks." The extremists include those who opposed the presidential transition, people spurred by "grievances fueled by false narratives" and "anger over COVID-19 restrictions ... and police use of force[.]"

Keep reading... Show less

Insights

mail-copy

Get Goodhumans in your inbox

Most Read

More Stories