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Firms boycotting Facebook ads over failure to curb hate speech

US telecoms giant Verizon joined the growing list of brands vowing to stop buying advertising on Facebook on Thursday over its perceived failure to crack down on hate speech and incitements to violence.

Firms boycotting Facebook ads over failure to curb hate speech
A giant digital sign is seen at Facebook's corporate headquarters campus in Menlo Park, California. Several US firms have joined a call by activists to halt ad spending on Facebook over concerns the leading social network has fallen short in efforts to crack down on hate speech and incitements to violence. The sporting goods maker Patagonia added its name to the list on June 21, 2020, joining rivals North Face and REI and the freelance staffing agency Upwork. AFP
“We're pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with what we’ve done with YouTube and other partners,” said John Nitti, Verizon chief media officer.

Multiple companies—most recently Ben & Jerry’s—have announced they will halt advertising purchases in July after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called for the boycott as part of the “Stop the Hate for Profit” campaign.

Facebook’s “hate speech, incitement, and misinformation policies are inequitable,” ADL chief executive Jonathan Greenblatt said in a letter Thursday.

Greenblatt noted the social media giant’s “haphazard” placement of advertising, pointing to an example in which a Verizon ad appeared next to “a video from the conspiracy group QAnon drawing on hateful and anti-Semitic rhetoric.”

Facebook is under increasing pressure for its hands-off approach to misinformation and inflammatory posts, particularly by US President Donald Trump.

The social media company made an estimated $70 billion annually from ads, the coalition—which includes the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)—behind #StopHateForProfit claimed in a statement on the ADL website.

“We respect any brand's decision, and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information,” said Facebook’s Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions.

Sporting goods makers Patagonia, North Face and REI, as well as the freelance staffing agency Upwork have all said they would boycott Facebook.

Meanwhile, Facebook said Thursday it was looking to add notifications about the source of coronavirus-related posts and will warn users when they share stories that are more than 90 days old.

The moves aim to add more context to stories shared on the leading social network and seek to stem the flow of misinformation.

Facebook Vice President John Hegeman said in a blog post the social media giant would be seeking to direct people to “authoritative” information about the COVID-19 outbreak through its hub on the pandemic.

For posts with links mentioning COVID-19, Facebook is considering a “notification screen that provides information about the source of the link and directs people to the COVID-19 Information Center for authoritative health information,” he said.

“Through providing more context, our goal is to make it easier for people to identify content that's timely, reliable, and most valuable to them.”

Hegeman also said a notification would be added to warn users trying to share old stories which may have lost relevance.

“To ensure people have the context they need to make informed decisions about what to share on Facebook, the notification screen will appear when people click the share button on articles older than 90 days but will allow people to continue sharing if they decide an article is still relevant,” he said.

Hegeman said Facebook’s research has found “that the timeliness of an article is an important piece of context that helps people decide what to read, trust and share” and that some news organizations have complained that sharing of older stories purported to be current news “can misconstrue the state of current events.”

The move is one of a series of actions taken by Facebook and other platforms, which have been under pressure to stem the flow of false information and influence campaigns.

Topics: Verizon , boycott , Facebook , hate speech , John Nitti , Ben & Jerry's
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