Companies Respond to Facebook’s Lack of Social Responsibility

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

When the Stop Hate for Profit campaign began on June 17th, it was relatively low-profile. Just a few weeks later, it is gracing major headlines as many well-recognized brands join the boycott that questions Facebook’s lack of social responsibility. Now, nearly 1000 companies are looking to influence Facebook’s policies by targeting its profits, a sweeping majority of which came from advertising in 2019. The companies hope the boycott will result in permanent improvements to the hate speech and fake news filters Facebook and its subsidiaries use.

The coalition behind Stop Hate for Profit includes the Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change, the NAACP, and other groups, all focused on civil rights and advocacy. The Stop Hate for Profit campaign stated their goal: “to force [CEO] Mark Zuckerberg to address the effect that Facebook has had on our society.” According to Facebook’s self-reported statistics, action was taken against 9.6 million instances of hate speech in Quarter 1 of this year, which is a noticeable jump from the 5.7 million in Quarter 4 of 2019.

The platform, however, has not shared the total amount of hate speech and misinformation posted, saying it is unable to estimate the amount posted by its 2.6 billion users. Many suspect that this is a cover-up to the fact that 90% of hate speech and misinformation is removed by an algorithm that can detect very little harmful content, in proportion to what is posted. The report, however, also stated that the detection technology for hate speech added new languages and made improvements to the previous algorithm.

The campaign detailed the changes they want to see Facebook implement in the next month:

  1. In terms of accountability, they want Facebook to establish and empower civil rights infrastructure. The campaign also does not believe transparency reports are reliable because of their lack of trust in the company. If an advertiser’s ad is shown near content that violates the terms of service, the campaign believes the advertiser should be refunded.

  2. The campaign also wants Facebook to incorporate decency measures which include the removal of both public and private groups focused on hate, as well as the creation of a mechanism to automatically flag hateful content. Flagging is defined as adding a notice which tells viewers of the content’s nature. Finally, the group asks that political misinformation as well as calls to violence by politicians be eliminated from the platform.

  3. According to the campaign, the new policies should include support based on a user’s individual identity. Support can include enabling individuals to connect with a live Facebook employee if they are experiencing repeated harassment. Currently, 42% of users have experienced harassment of some sort on the platform.

With a sudden surge of blue-chip companies joining the movement, Facebook is running out of time to respond to the requests. Of the $70 billion profit Facebook made last year, 98% of it was from advertisements on its apps, including Instagram and Facebook.

Verizon was the first large company to join the boycott on June 25th. Since then, a plethora of established name brands such as Adidas, Mozilla, Hershey’s, REI, Lego, and hundreds more have joined in, hoping to influence change on Facebook, Instagram and other Facebook subsidiaries. Facebook’s share price has dropped substantially since the beginning of the campaign. On the day Unilever — a large corporation which owns dozens of brands including Dove, Magnum, and Lipton — announced that it was joining the boycott, Facebook’s shares dropped 8%.

Many companies have made individual statements on their stance on Facebook. Some have shared their perspective through social media statements, while others have written statements on their websites or given interviews on the subject. Multiple large corporations have taken to Twitter in regards to #StopHateforProfit.

Patagonia announced it was joining the boycott in a series of tweets. Head of Marketing, Cory Bayers wrote that Facebook has “failed to take sufficient steps to stop the spread of hateful lies and dangerous propaganda on its platform.” He also raised attention to the fact that the stakes were too high not to act. He gave the examples of “secure elections to a global pandemic to racial justice” and went on to say “profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism, and violence.”

JanSport took to the social media platform to share that they “stand with the @NAACP & @ADL to #StopHateforProfit” and “join the fight for stricter policies that keep racist, violent & hateful content from proliferating on these platforms.” The sportswear company also made it clear that for the month of July, they will stop advertising on Facebook and Instagram.

Many other companies have taken a pause from all social media advertising. Although their break will not only be from Facebook, they suggested that they are leaving social media for reasons similar to those of the campaign.

Chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company James Quincey stated that “there is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media.” They are also halting paid advertising on a global scale. They will be taking at least 30 days off of social media platforms, as they need time to reassess policies involving advertising.

Similarly, Starbucks did not specifically reference Facebook in their online statement, but acknowledged that they “stand against hate speech.” They will also be taking a 30-day break from all social media advertising, in an effort to continue internal decisions and work alongside media partners and civil rights organizations.

Have you heard how nearly 1000 companies have suspended advertising on Facebook due to the lack of filters on hate speech and fake news? Has Facebook’s lack of social responsibility discouraged you from using the platform (or its products) in any way?

“I have been using Facebook despite recent controversies regarding hate speech on Facebook, although I do think that as a platform Facebook should be responsible for labeling misinformation. I believe that freedom of speech should be protected on social media ALTHOUGH, misinformation should be labeled since it can be easily widespread through social media platforms.” Ankita Shenoy, 18, Rising Freshman at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
“I personally don’t use Facebook much outside of school groups, but I do believe that they should put much more effort into fighting against hate speech. I think it has become a very political issue since activists are using posts from the president as examples of hate speech and misinformation. Facebook is in an unusual position where agreeing with activists may lead to the government placing restrictions on social media companies, so I understand why they are reluctant. It isn’t fair to expect them to suddenly be able to eliminate hate content, but with the advertisement cuts I think Facebook will eventually move in the right direction for both the company and its users.” Vikram Raghu, 17, Rising Senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology
“No, I didn’t know that was happening so can’t really say anything. But now I’ll research more on it. I’ll probably have an opinion after I research.” Keya Gandhi, 15, Rising Sophomore at Oakton High School