Is social media a force for good, for mindless drivel, or a force for hatred, bigotry, extremism and general unpleasantness?
Some of the world’s biggest companies think it’s the latter. And, in this time of extreme social sensitivity, they’ve had enough of what they feel is a lack of commitment from the social media platforms to control hate speech and disinformation.
Big brands are closing their wallets and saying ‘no thanks’
So they’re protesting the way that big businesses do; by shutting their wallets and extending an extremely polite middle finger to Facebook, in particular, but also other popular platforms such as Instagram and Twitter.
Coca-Cola, a global name with an eye-watering advertising budget, said on Friday 26 June that it will be pausing its advertising on all social media platforms around the world.
Similarly, British-Dutch multinational consumer goods company Unilever is stopping its advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter across the US until the end of 2020.
On Saturday, the British alcoholic beverages company Diageo joined the social media advertising boycott, saying it would stop most social media advertising from July.
Starbucks throws its weight behind efforts to clean up social media
The latest high-profile brand is coffeehouse chain Starbucks. It said on Sunday it intends to stop paid advertising on all social media platforms. Instead, Starbucks wants to have discussions internally and with media partners and civil rights organisations to stop the spread of hate speech.
Interestingly, though, the ban does not include YouTube, which is owned by Google.
“We believe in bringing communities together, both in person and online, and we stand against hate speech,” the company said. “We believe more must be done to create welcoming and inclusive online communities, and we believe both business leaders and policy makers need to come together to affect real change.”
Social justice groups join forces to create campaign
The announcements by these big-name global brands come in the wake of the formation of a group called #StopHateForProfit, which kicked off earlier in the month by targeting Facebook.
The group – a coalition of various social justice organisations – wants companies to withdraw advertising support for Facebook because it is “a company puts profit over safety”.
According to a report by broadcaster CNBC, among the group’s demands is a “separate moderation pipeline” for users who say they’ve been targeted because of their race or religion, or to let advertisers see how frequently their ads appeared near content that was later removed for misinformation or hate speech, and allow them refunds for those advertisements.