After a week of public outcry and corporate boycotts, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in a town hall with employees that the company would be taking several measures to crack down on hate speech and misinformation. In a subsequent post to his own Facebook page, Zuckerberg outlined the measures, which include banning ads that contain hate speech, affixing labels to misinformation spread by politicians, and taking a firm stance against any politician who incited violence with their posts.
A few hours later, Coca-Cola announced that it would be suspending its advertising on Facebook and other social platforms for the next 30 days. The soft drink giant joined Unilever, Verizon and Honda on a growing list of mid-sized and major corporations fleeing the social media network due to pressure from civil rights organizations and protestors, who have accused Facebook of doing too little to stop racism, misinformation, and violent speech.
As of Saturday morning, over 133 companies have pulled their advertising dollars from the world’s leading social platform, according to the media activist group Sleeping Giants. It marks an exponential increase from a boycott that began on Tuesday with a few outdoor recreation companies, such as REI and Patagonia.
Zuckerberg’s announcement, meant to mollify critics, did little to change their opinions.
What we’ve seen in today’s address from Mark Zuckerberg is a failure to wrestle with the harms FB has caused on our democracy & civil rights. If this is the response he’s giving to major advertisers withdrawing millions of dollars from the company, we can’t trust his leadership.
— Rashad Robinson (@rashadrobinson) June 26, 2020
Vanita Gupta, a former Justice Department official who leads the umbrella group Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, told the Washington Post that she was unimpressed with the changes.
“They’re useful. They’re good. But they’re super incremental,” she said. “They miss the bigger picture of the weaponization of the platform and undermine the prospects of a fair election in November.”
The loss of companies such as Coca-Cola signal skittishness from the world’s biggest brands, which could have a major impact on the company’s advertising revenue, which hit $70 billion last year. Coca-Cola spent $22 million on the platform last year, Politico reported, while Unilever put $41 million in the social media company’s coffers.
Facebook has been under fire for the last few months as far-right outlets have spread misinformation about the coronavirus and President Donald Trump has posted violent messages about protestors. A Facebook spokesperson told the Washington Post that even under the company’s new standards, Trump’s now-infamous “When the looting starts, the shooting starts” post, which earned a warning label from Twitter, would not have been in any way censored.
Trump threw a fit over Twitter’s decisions to both affix a warning label on top of that tweet and fact checks on his tweets about voter fraud, publicly calling out the company and issuing an executive order that threatened to strip social media platforms of crucial legal protections. Zuckerberg made an effort to cater to Trump, telling interviewers that he had no interest in being the “arbiter of truth of everything that people say online.”
The company’s inaction was greeted with a public outcry and anger from employees, who staged a “virtual” walkout to signal their dismay. At least two employees have resigned in protest. Additionally, scientists funded by Zuckerberg and wife Priscilla Chan’s foundation on misinformation wrote a letter to the couple, urging them to take stronger action against Trump and right-wing provocateurs; Zuckerberg and Chan responded that they were “disgusted” with Trump’s posts but promised little action.