Ben & Jerry’s joined other companies in boycotting paid ads on Facebook. What does #StopHateforProfit want? Candy Chan explains.
Ben & Jerry’s is the latest company to join a line of others in boycotting Facebook ads. On Tuesday, the ice cream company announced its plan to join the #StopHateForProfit campaign, which urges companies to pause their paid advertisements on Facebook starting July 1.
Last week, a coalition of six organizations—among them, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Anti-Defamation League, and Color of Change—launched a campaign calling for businesses to pull their spending on Facebook ads for the month of July. According to the campaign, Facebook is guilty of promoting hate, racism, antisemitism, and violence.
Patagonia, The North Face, REI and Eddie Bauer, among dozens of others, joined the campaign and suspended their paid Facebook ads.
Ben & Jerry’s statement reads, “Ben & Jerry’s stands with our friends at the NAACP and Color of Change, the ADL, and all those calling for Facebook to take stronger action to stop its platforms from being used to divide our nation, suppress voters, foment and fan the flames of racism and violence, and undermine our democracy.”
What does #StopHateforProfit want?
In the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer, protests erupted across the nation. Facebook allowed “incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice,” the campaign states. Facebook also named Breitbart News a “trusted news source” and made The Daily Caller a fact-checker for their platform, despite the fact that both publications have a reputation for working with known white nationalists.
The campaign produced a list of recommendations for Facebook. It calls for Facebook to provide more support to those who are targets of racism and hate, to stop generating ad revenue from content that spreads misinformation or hate, and to increase safety in private groups on Facebook.
In providing support to those facing the brunt of racist rhetoric, the campaign recommends that Facebook creates a “pipeline” for these users and that they include voices of experts on various forms of identity-based hate.
A 2019 survey conducted by ADL found that Facebook was the social media platform where most Americans reported facing hate and harassment, with more than 55% of its users responding so.
“We have long seen how Facebook has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and our lives. When this hate spreads online it causes tremendous harm and also becomes permissible offline,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of ADL. “Our organizations have tried individually and collectively to push Facebook to make their platforms safer, but they have repeatedly failed to take meaningful action. We hope this campaign finally shows Facebook how much their users and their advertisers want them to make serious changes for the better.”
The #StopHateForProfit campaign website states that 99% of Facebook’s approximately $70 billion dollars in revenue per year comes from advertisements. The research firm eMarketer projects that Facebook’s ad revenue will increase nearly 5% this year.
Advertisers contribute greatly to Facebook’s success and power, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi acknowledged last Tuesday, coincidentally a day before the campaign launched, at an online forum about COVID-19 and social media misinformation.
“Advertisers are in a position, they have power to discourage platforms from amplifying dangerous and even life-threatening disinformation,” she said.
“Some major advertisers and some not so major have begun to express objections to platform policies that promote voter fraud and violence … We need to empower advertisers to continue to object and to use their power to hold social media companies accountable for their bad behavior. This is an undermining of democracy. It is a challenge to people’s health. It is just wrong.”
What is Facebook doing?
Facebook must reckon with its role in spreading misinformation and racist content. For months many called for the company to police or moderate political ads, especially as the 2020 presidential election draws nearer.
Joe Biden’s campaign notably took a stand against Facebook for protecting the spread of political misinformation, most recently with its refusal to take down President Trump’s misleading posts about mail-in ballots.
Last October, Senator Elizabeth Warren tweeted, “Facebook is actively helping Trump spread lies and misinformation. Facebook already helped elect Donald Trump once. They might do it again—and profit off of it.”
The company announced last week that it would allow people in the U.S. to opt out of seeing electoral or political ads on their Facebook and Instagram feeds.
This move allows Facebook to uphold its policy not to moderate or interfere with political ads or politicians’ speech because they are of public interest, even if false. This “newsworthiness exemption” was in place since 2016 and it is a rule Mark Zuckerberg tirelessly defended.
In an op-ed for USA Today published last Wednesday, Zuckerberg writes, “free expression is part of the messy process of democracy, and we take our responsibility to protect it incredibly seriously.”
Despite the company’s firm stance, Facebook did recently take down ads from Trump’s reelection campaign featuring a symbol used by Nazis during World War II. According to the company, Trump’s campaign ads violated policies against organized hate.
The opt-out function also comes as the company rolls out what Mark Zuckerberg calls the “largest voting information campaign in American history,” with a goal of registering 4 million people to vote.
The company created a Voting Information Center to distribute accurate information about how and when to vote, and share posts from state election officials and verified local election authorities. Users can access the Voting Information Center on Facebook and Instagram.
Zuckerberg also assured op-ed readers that the company braces itself for foreign election interference, as it failed to do in 2016.
“Ultimately, I believe the best way to hold politicians accountable is through voting, and I believe we should trust voters to make judgments for themselves,” Zuckerberg writes in his op-ed. “That’s why I think we should maintain as open a platform as possible, accompanied by ambitious efforts to boost voter participation.”