In the late 18th century, the abolitionist movement encouraged British to remain far away from goods produced by slaves. It worked. Around 3,00,000 stopped buying sugar increasing the pressure to abolish slavery.
The Stop Hate for Profit campaign is the latest movement to use boycott as a political tool. It claims that Facebook doesn’t do enough to get rid of racist and hateful content from its platform. It’s convinced a series of major companies to tug advertising from Facebook and a few other social media companies. Among the newest to try to so are Ford, Adidas, and HP.
They join earlier participants including Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Unilever. News site Axios has also reported that Microsoft suspended advertising on Instagram and Facebook in May due to concerns about unspecified “inappropriate content”.
Meanwhile, other online platforms, like Reddit and Twitch, have piled on more pressure by taking anti-hate steps of their own.
Loss of trust
Can that boycott hurt Facebook? The short answer is yes – the overwhelming majority of Facebook’s revenue comes from ads.
On Friday, Facebook’s share price dropped by 8% – making chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, theoretically a minimum of , £6bn poorer. But whether this might be bigger – an existential threat to Facebook’s long-term future – is way less clear.
Facebook defends push against ‘false news’ Starbucks suspends social media ads over hate speech Outdoor brands boycott Facebook ads First of all, this is not the primary boycott of a social media company. In 2017, major brand after major brand announced they might stop advertising on YouTube – after ads were placed next to racist and homophobic videos. That particular boycott is now almost totally forgotten.
YouTube tweaked its ad policies, and Google is doing just fine. And there are more reasons to believe this boycott isn’t as damaging to Facebook as you would possibly think.
Lots of low spenders
Firstly, many companies have only committed to a one-month boycott in July 2020. Secondly, and maybe more significantly, much of Facebook’s advertising revenue comes from thousands and thousands of small- to medium-sized businesses.
The highest-spending 100 brands accounted for $4.2bn in Facebook advertising last year or about 6% of the platform’s ad revenue as per CNN Reports. So far, the overwhelming majority of medium-sized companies haven’t signed up.
Mat Morrison, head of strategy at ad agency Digital Whiskey, told me there is a huge number of smaller businesses that “can’t afford to not advertise”. Mat Morrison says that for smaller businesses – which are priced out of advertising on TV – cheaper and more focussed ads on platforms like Facebook are essential.
Morrison says “The only way our business works has access to those highly targeted audiences that are not mass media audiences, so we’ll still advertise”. In some ways Facebook seems like an honest choice of company to lobby. The structure of Facebook gives Mark Zuckerberg an enormous amount of power to affect change. If he wants something, he’ll catch on.
You only got to change the mind of 1 man. But the reverse is additionally true. Shareholders aren’t ready to put pressure on Mr Zuckerberg within the same way as other companies. If he doesn’t want to act, he won’t. So far though, he has shown signs he’s prepared to maneuver.
On Friday, Facebook announced it might begin to tag hateful content and appearance out for further announcements in the week. These changes won’t be enough to form Stop Hate for Profit get away though. And elsewhere, others are taking action of their own.
Reddit has banned on this monday The Donald forum as a part of a wider crackdown on “subreddits” whose members have engaged in harassment and threatening behaviour. The community wasn’t officially linked to the President, but had helped widely spread memes that supported him, before Reddit took earlier steps to limit the posts’ reach. In addition, Twitch has temporarily banned an account travel by the Trump campaign.
The Amazon owned video-streaming site said two videos of Mr Trump’s rallies that were shown on its platform had broken its rules on hateful conduct. One dated from 2015, before he was elected, at which he had said Mexico was sending rapists to the US.
The opposite was from earlier this month, during which the President had described a fictional “tough hombre” breaking into the house of an American woman. “We don’t make exceptions for political or newsworthy content,” Twitch said during a statement. This year goes to be a rocky year for all social media companies. Facebook is by no means the exception. But companies will always be guided by their balance sheets.
If the boycott drags on into the autumn – and if more and more companies check in – this might be a defining year for the social network.