Facebook Ad Boycott Drives Stocks Down

June 30, 2020
A growing list of companies decided to form an “advertising boycott” against social media giant Facebook, as a way of protest against the site's failures to stop the spread of hate.
Facebook Ad Boycott Drives Stocks Down

A growing list of companies decided to form an “advertising boycott” against social media giant Facebook, as a way of protest against the site’s failures to stop the spread of hate.

More specifically, a civil rights coalition including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the NAACP, launched the #StopHateforProfit campaign last week, and urged big corporations to pause/stop their Facebook ads, citing the company’s “repeated failure to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate on its platforms.”

Feeling confused? Let’s take this from the top.

How did the Facebook Ad Boycott start?

Facebook’s motto is to “give people the power to build a community and bring the world closer together.” 

However, in the past couple of months, the social media agent has been acting in ways that are in direct contravention to their original purpose. In fact, it has even contributed to spreading division and discord in the world.

On June 17th, a coalition consisting of: Color Of ChangeNAACPADLSleeping GiantsFree Press, and Common Sense Media urged Facebook’s advertisers to pause their ad spending on Facebook and Instagram for July 2020 and demanded that Facebook addresses the issue of racism across their platforms via the Stop Hate for Profit campaign.

As the Color of Change website stated: “From the monetization of hate speech to discrimination in their algorithms to the proliferation of voter suppression to the silencing of Black voices, Facebook has refused to take responsibility for hate, bias, and discrimination growing on their platforms. And what has allowed Facebook to continue racist practices is the $70B of revenue from corporations every year. Companies have a choice to make about whether they want their businesses featured on Facebook’s platforms side-by-side with racist attacks on Black people.”

In simple words, companies who have been publicly supporting the “Black Lives Matter” movement on social media platforms, should investigate whether their millions of dollars in Facebook ads are undermining their lofty words by funding a platform that directly contravenes their values.

This campaign, however, does not only refer to the “Black Lives Matter” movement. According to the official website of “Stop Hate For Profit”, Facebook is asked to:

  1. Establish and empower permanent civil rights infrastructure including a C-suite level executive with civil rights expertise to evaluate products and policies for discrimination, bias, and hate.
  1. Submit to a regular, third-party, independent audits of identity-based hate and misinformation with summary results published on a publicly accessible website.
  1. Provide audit of and refund to advertisers whose ads were shown next to content that was later removed for violations of terms of service. 
  1. Find and remove public and private groups focused on white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism. 
  1. Stop recommending or otherwise amplifying groups or content from groups associated with hate, misinformation, or conspiracies to users. 
  1. Ensure accuracy in political and voting matters by eliminating the politician exemption; removing misinformation related to voting; and prohibiting calls to violence by politicians in any format.

As well as many other very important points that can be viewed on the organization’s official website.

The Companies Who Joined the Facebook Boycott

A long list of well-established companies joined the Facebook boycott “Stop Hate for Profit”, pausing their advertising campaigns on the social media platform.

Some of these companies include Coca-Cola, Honda, Levi’s, Patagonia, The North Face, Unilever, Viber, Ben & Jerrys, and many others. The maker of Dove soap and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream said it would halt Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram advertising in the US “at least” through 2020.

Regarding the list of companies published on the website, the organization stated: “We have received an overwhelming response to the campaign so please check back regularly for updates to this list. Inclusion on this list is not an endorsement by Stop Hate for Profit or its partners of the organizations, commercially or politically.

What did Mark Zuckerberg Say?

In his speech on Friday 26th of June, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg defended the firm’s record of taking down hate speech. More specifically, he pointed to a European Commission report this month that found Facebook removed 86% of hate speech last year, up from 82.6%.

However, the social media giant then announced that it will start to label potentially harmful posts that it leaves up because of their news value.

Facebook stock

Zuckerberg also stated that Facebook will attach a label to “problematic” content that falls outside of those categories.

A handful of times a year, we leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies if the public interest value outweighs the risk of harm,” he said. “Often, seeing speech from politicians is in the public interest, and in the same way that news outlets will report what a politician says, we think people should generally be able to see it for themselves on our platforms. 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,” he said.

Responding to the boycott, Twitter has taken some similar steps, including banning advertisements from politicians and adding labels and warnings to some kinds of content, including tweets by President Donald Trump.

Twitter executive Sarah Personette stated: “We have developed policies and platform capabilities designed to protect and serve the public conversation, and as always, are committed to amplifying voices from under-represented communities and marginalized groups”.

Facebook Shares Are Falling

Facebook gets nearly all of its revenue from companies’ adverts, however, after the global boycott against it, its stock value dropped 8.3%. This happened on Friday’s trading after Unilever halted advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Facebook boycott

Unilever’s brands include Dove and Ben & Jerry’s, and the London-based multinational spent more than $11.8 million in the U.S. this year on Facebook, according to marketing analytics.

On Sunday the 28th of June, the famous coffee franchise Starbucks also joined the Facebook ad boycott.

Additionally, Coca-Cola’s CEO James Quincey made an official statement which said: “Starting on July 1, The Coca-Cola Company will pause paid advertising on all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days. 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. We will let them know we expect greater accountability, action, and transparency from them.”

What’s Next?

Mark Zuckerberg became $7.2 billion poorer after a flurry of companies pulled advertising from Facebook Inc.’s network.

According to Bloomberg, the share-price drop eliminated $56 billion from Facebook’s market value and pushed Zuckerberg’s net worth down to $82.3 billion.

Before we start making assumptions that the boycott is actually working though, let’s not forget that we are still currently going through a pandemic that has already driven a slowdown in the digital advertising industry this year. 

Therefore, it’s difficult to know for sure whether the boycott will even have a measurable impact on Facebook’s future.

The pandemic and a large number of participating brands, make it challenging to link any potential dip in Facebook revenue directly to the boycott.

Many also believe that it will be a matter of time when brands return to the platform, as there are few alternatives in reaching audiences the size Facebook can offer.

The earliest any impact could become apparent will be when the company reports its third-quarter earnings results this fall.

Disclaimer: This article is not investment advice or an investment recommendation and should not be considered as such. The information above is not an invitation to trade and it does not guarantee or predict future performance. The investor is solely responsible for the risk of their decisions. The analysis and commentary presented do not include any consideration of your personal investment objectives, financial circumstances or needs.

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