Taking an advertising break during 'polarized election period'
The Hague (AFP) - Consumer giant Unilever, home to brands including Ben and Jerry’s and Marmite, said Friday it will stop advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the US until the end of 2020 due to the “polarized election period” there.
The Anglo-Dutch firm is the largest of a growing list of brands halting ads on Facebook over the social media titan’s perceived failure to crack down on hate speech and incitements to violence.
“We have taken the decision to stop advertising on @Facebook , @Instagram & @Twitter in the US,” Unilever said in a post on Twitter.
“The polarized atmosphere places an increased responsibility on brands to build a trusted & safe digital ecosystem. Our action starts now until the end of 2020.”
Unilever, whose brands also include Dove soap, Magnum ice cream, Lipton tea and Knorr, is a major advertiser on social media in the United States.
Facebook said it was taking action against hate speech, adding that it had already banned 250 white supremacist groups, but had more work to do.
“We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and continuously work with outside experts to review and update our policies,” Facebook said in a statement.
“We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups.”
- ‘Much more to be done’ -
US Telecoms giant Verizon announced on Thursday that it was “pausing” its advertising on Facebook, the latest company to do so after the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called for the boycott as part of the “Stop the Hate for Profit” campaign.
The Unilever move however goes beyond Facebook and Facebook-owned Instagram to take in Twitter.
A Unilever spokeswoman said that the company had committed to engage with internet companies “but there is much more to be done, especially in the areas of divisiveness and hate speech during this polarized election period in the U.S.”
“Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society. We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary,” the spokeswoman told AFP
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.
Sporting goods makers Patagonia, North Face and REI, as well as the freelance staffing agency Upwork have all said they would boycott Facebook.
Unilever has taken a series of steps in a bid to improve its image in recent months.
The firm said in October it would cut its use of new plastic by half by 2025, while admitting the move was partly to appeal to young, more environmentally-conscious customers.
Unilever said on Thursday its Indian and Bangladeshi arms would rename their locally marketed “Fair & Lovely” skin-lightening cream in the face of global anti-racism protests.