More than 500 corporations are suspending advertising on Facebook because of founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s reluctant and minimalist response to calls to end hate speech and misinformation on Facebook. Here’s an excerpt from Mark Zuckerberg: advertisers’ boycott of Facebook will end ‘soon enough’about the Stop Hate for Profit campaign in The Guardian.
Mark Zuckerberg has dismissed the threat of a punishing boycott from major advertisers pressing Facebook to take a stronger stand on hate speech and said they will be back “soon enough”…
“We’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue, or to any percent of our revenue,” he said, according to the Information.
Zuckerberg says it’s no big deal and won’t hurt the company’s bottom line if corporate advertisers boycott the platform for at least a month. When it comes to hate speech, shouldn’t there be other concerns beyond his bottom line? From the quotes in The Guardian article, Zuckerberg stands firm against his advertisers’ protestations.
Corporate boycotts have had some success in the past — both customers boycotting corporations or corporations cutting ties with other brands. Fed Ex and Nike — corporate sponsors for the Washington R–skins — recently called on that team to drop its racist name. Investors wrote to Fed Ex, Nike, and PepsiCo and asked that they end their relationship with the Washing team until it changes its name. The issue of eliminating racist and derogatory sports team names, venue and landmark names, and monuments pops up cyclically. Usually, things change a little, but the underlying problems persist. With everything hitting Americans at once — COVID19 running rampant, inadequate nationwide healthcare system, huge job loses, economic uncertainty, police violence, and bungling governments — there is a fervor to right the wrongs of today and the past — just look at the protests and the statues coming down. Again, from The Guardian:
Following weeks of protests against police violence and racial injustice, major brands have for the first time joined together to protest against still-prevalent hate speech on Facebook’s platforms by taking aim at the social network’s $70bn in annual ad revenue.
After years of piecemeal measures to address hate, abuse and misinformation on its service, Facebook’s critics hope that pinching the company where it hurts will push it toward more meaningful change.
With Starbucks, Target, PepsiCo and hundreds more saying that they will at least temporarily suspend ads on Facebook, what about politicians? During a campaign year, politicians buy thousands of dollars (or millions of dollars in a national campaign) worth of social media ads, including Facebook ads. I think campaign speech should be truthful. Facebook doesn’t see its role as a speech moderator, although misinformation on social media was a major contributor to the rise of bad actors purposefully trying to spread fake news and to the rancor among users toward each other.
I lost friends in 2016 when so many people indiscriminately shared sexist fake news stories, sexually gross cartoons, and Breitbart News misinformation and hate speech about Hillary Clinton, AND some subsequently attacked women who dared to speak up about the inappropriateness of it. That wasn’t pretty; let’s not go back there.
The tech giants were part of the problem in 2016, and I don’t see major safeguards four years later. I fully support changes to these platforms to curb hate speech and bullying. I agree with Senator Elizabeth Warren’s calls for regulation and breaking up the tech giants. Aside from the racism, sexism, and homophobia that is allowed to fester in the backrooms of the Internet, these tech giants are too big and too powerful. They could divest themselves of some of the side businesses. (Personally, I liked Instagram a lot more before Facebook bought it and junked it up with advertising.) Also, for all the money that Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple, and others make, they don’t treat their lower level employees and contract workers well. (My cousin has horrendous stories of wage theft and speed-up when she was a telephone support person working for an Apple subcontractor in Denver; she was written up for spending too much time on the phone with customers who were trying to set up their new iPhone 5s. She was too helpful.)
Facebook and other social media platforms play a major role in elections. They have a responsibility to their users to provide a safe space for civil discourse for everyone regardless of race or gender and to supply accurate information — not just junk that gets clicks and likes.
Recently, I read an article that suggested Facebook, Twitter and other platforms could slow the spread of misinformation by not permitting people to share stories they have not read. I think this is a great idea. This type of change gets the platforms out of the business of judging speech as hate or not. This does not replace other content-related fixes but would help dramatically. Click bait stories often have headlines and/or images that don’t match the story and that are purposefully misleading and provocative to get you to click through to a story clogged with ads. Also, Facebook’s default is to show us the most popular posts– true or not. This practice promotes content for the sole purpose of more “likes”, regardless of the information (or lack there of) in the post.
Don’t click the click bait! Read before you share or comment.
What do you think of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign?