After Mounting Pressure, Facebook Announces Plan to Label Posts

Fallout is continuing for Trumps comments. Facebook is announcing a new plan to label posts that violate the rules, but are “newsworthy”.

For various social media platforms, how to handle a president like Trump on the network is an increasingly tense question. Back in May, Twitter seemingly got the ball rolling on finally taking action by labelling two Tweets. The labels urged users to get the facts about mail-in ballots. In a retaliatory move, Trump signed an executive order attempting to kill Twitter and Section 230 for having the audacity to associate facts with his comments.

Gradually, Trumps tweets grew more violent. In one case, Trump threatened Black Lives Matter demonstrators with vicious dogs and ominous weapons. In response, Snapchat reacted by refusing to promote the president in their platform. In another instance, the impeached US President issued a bomb threat against John Bolton and issued another threat of violence against protesters. Twitter flagged the threat of violence, but left the bomb threat up. There is even the instance where Trump shared a doctored video to completely distort a heartwarming story about two toddlers instantly becoming friends.

Of course, you might be wondering about Facebook. Earlier this month, we reported on the increasingly tense situation going on internally at the social media company. In that tense exchange, employees are increasingly expressing outrage that management isn’t doing anything to curb Trumps increasingly violent and psychotic rhetoric. Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, responded by saying that they will be looking into making changes to how Facebook handles posts that obviously violate the terms of service from newsworthy individuals.

Now, it seems that Zuckerberg is announcing these plans. Ultimately, they seem to just be following Twitter’s lead by simply labelling the comments. From The Hill:

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced Friday that the platform will label but leave up posts deemed “newsworthy” that violate company policies, a major reversal that comes after weeks of criticism.

“We will soon start labeling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case,” Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post. “We’ll allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content, because this is an important part of how we discuss what’s acceptable in our society — but we’ll add a prompt to tell people that the content they’re sharing may violate our policies.”

He pointed specifically to posts from politicians, writing that “we leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm.”

Zuckerberg emphasized though that politicians and government officials are not exempt from the new policy, and their posts will be taken down if the company determines it could incite violence or lead to voter suppression.

As the article goes on to say, the move comes as more and more advertisers are boycotting the platform. All month, more and more brands began announcing that they are pulling out of Facebook and Instagram’s advertising ecosystem. One of those brands was The North Face. Earlier this month, the brand said it would be pulling out. They were joined by AHF in the boycott. From CNN:

Outdoor apparel brand The North Face has become the best-known company yet to commit to an advertising boycott of Facebook in light of the social media platform’s handling of misinformation and hate speech — a move that could open the door for other brands to do the same.

The brand’s decision responds to a pressure campaign by top civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, known as #StopHateForProfit, which on Wednesday began calling for advertisers to suspend their marketing on Facebook in the month of July.

“We’re in,” The North Face tweeted. “We’re out @Facebook #StopHateForProfit.”

Hours later, outdoor equipment retailer REI said it will join the boycott.

“For 82 years, we have put people over profits,” the company said in a tweet. “We’re pulling all Facebook/Instagram advertising for the month of July.”

REI’s announcement was swiftly followed by recruiting company Upwork, which said that it would be joining the campaign.

Later on, Unilever and Coca-Cola also joined the boycott. From NBC:

The global consumer packaged goods company Unilever announced Friday that it will halt its advertising on Facebook and Instagram, joining a growing movement to stop spending ad dollars on the social media platforms.

The New Jersey-based conglomerate also said it would pull its advertising from Twitter because of a polarized climate on social media, which is being exacerbated by the November election.

On Friday evening, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola announced it would “pause” its social media advertising globally for the month of July.

“We will take this time to reassess our advertising standards and policies to determine whether revisions are needed internally, and what more we should expect of our social media partners to rid the platforms of hate, violence and inappropriate content,” the company said in a statement.

Verizon also said that it would be pulling their advertising from the social media giant. From Verizon:

Verizon said on Thursday it is pulling advertising on Facebook until the company “can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable.”

A company spokesperson said the pause applies to both Facebook and Instagram. It comes as marketers including Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and REI have also said they plan to pause advertising on the platforms.

Facebook’s stock was down nearly 2% Thursday evening.

Starbucks and Honda also said that they would be halting advertising operations for the social media giant. From USAToday:

Starbucks is the latest company to announce it will pause advertising on all social platforms, which include Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

But the Seattle-based coffee giant confirmed to USA TODAY it is not part of the growing boycott organized by civil rights groups to condemn Facebook’s failure to remove hate speech.

“We will pause advertising on all social media platforms while we continue discussions internally, with our media partners and with civil rights organizations in the effort to stop the spread of hate speech,” Starbucks said in a statement Sunday.

Despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg outlining several steps the social network will take to combat hate speech ahead of the 2020 presidential election Friday, companies including Unilever, Honda, Verizon and Coca-Cola have joined the protest.

While all of these are generally American based brands, it seems that organizers of the boycott are already attempting to take the boycott global. From the Toronto Sun:

Free Press and Common Sense, along with U.S. civil rights groups Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League, launched the campaign following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man killed by Minneapolis police.

“The next frontier is global pressure,” Steyer said, adding the campaign hopes to embolden regulators in Europe to take a harder stance on Facebook. The European Commission in June announced new guidelines for tech companies including Facebook to submit monthly reports on how they are handling coronavirus misinformation.

The outrage in the United States over the death of Floyd has led to an unprecedented reaction from corporations around the world. Its impact has been felt beyond U.S. borders. Unilever, for example, changed the name of a skin-lightening product popular in India called Fair and Lovely.

The global campaign will proceed as organizers continue to urge more U.S. companies to participate. Jessica Gonzalez, co-chief executive of Free Press, said she has contacted major U.S. telecommunications and media companies to ask them to join the campaign.

The boycott is growing so large, that some news outlets are starting to build lists of companies that have joined the boycott. Here’s one such list from Fortune:

  1. Unilever
  2. Verizon
  3. Hershey’s
  4. Honda
  5. The North Face
  6. Ben & Jerry’s
  7. REI
  8. Patagonia
  9. Eddie Bauer
  10. Upwork
  11. Mozilla
  12. Magnolia Pictures
  13. Birchbox
  14. Dashlane
  15. TalkSpace
  16. LendingClub

So, Facebooks reaction isn’t really just something they saw other platforms do and finally decided to follow suit on their own. There is a massive advertising backlash which threatens to see advertising dollars evaporate for the platform. Without advertisers, the money for the platform will ultimately evaporate. Many observers are crediting the boycott for twisting Zuckerbergs arm into action. While the latest announcement many not move the needle much, it is showing that there is movement on this file. Chances are, the boycott will continue to expand until some solid action takes place beyond just mere announcements.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.



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