Target, Best Buy Join Over 350 Companies In Growing Facebook Boycott

TOPLINE

An advertising boycott of Facebook called for by top civil rights groups continues to gather momentum with over 350 marketers—most recently joined by Target, Best Buy, Pfizer and Volkswagen—announcing they will not work with the tech giant until “meaningful action” is taken to address misinformation and hate speech. 

KEY FACTS

Civil rights groups, including the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League, launched the #StopHateForProfit campaign on June 17, pressuring large companies to halt advertising with a social media site they say doesn’t stop “bad actors using the platform to do harm” at least through the month of July.

Target became the latest major company Tuesday to announce an advertising boycott of Facebook and Instagram, following a slew of similar announcements Monday from big brands like Best Buy, Pfizer, Ford, Adidas, Clorox, Chobani, Patreon, Madewell, Conagara Brands, Denny’s and more that they would join an unfriending list of over 350 brands that collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars with Facebook every year.

CNN confirmed Monday that Microsoft quietly suspended its Facebook and Instagram advertising in May, weeks ahead of the #StopHateForProfit launch, and may be the biggest advertiser yet to quit Facebook this year (Microsoft spent more than $115 million on Facebook ads in 2019, according to advertising analytics company Pathmatics), while Pepsi also backed away this week without a large announcement.

Over the past few days, the likes of Starbucks, Coca-Cola, Honda, Hershey’s, Verizon, Ben & Jerry’s, HP, Levi Strauss, Lululemon, Birchbox and Unilever, which owns brands like Dove Soap and Lipton Tea, have also joined the boycott, and the movement has even spread outside of the U.S. to include several international companies, such as German automaker Volkswagen, Honda Europe, Ford Europe, British-based oil group BP, French-owned EDF Energy and U.K. drinks brand Britvic.

Procter & Gamble Co., which is considered an advertising trendsetter, said it is reviewing all the platforms it advertises on for objectionable content, according to The Wall Street Journal, and won’t work “on or near content that we determine is hateful, denigrating or discriminatory.”

As the list continues to grow, Facebook has tried to mitigate damage, reportedly giving an “upbeat” presentation to advertisers and agency executives last week and announcing Friday a new policy to begin labeling posts from politicians that violate its policies, but are still newsworthy; despite this action, Facebook saw its shares fall by more than 10 percent Monday with a new survey predicting that one-third of top advertisers will soon join the social media boycott.

Dozens of smaller companies have similarly pledged their allegiance and multiple ad agencies have reportedly encouraged their clients to move away from Facebook, including Goodby Silverstein, the first agency to join the boycott, who has clients like BMW, PayPal, Adobe and Doritos (these companies have not yet joined themselves); online therapy startup, Talkspace, withdrew from a six-figure content partnership deal with Facebook earlier this month and web browsing company Mozilla stopped advertising with Facebook in 2018 after the Cambridge Analytica scandal.

North Face was the first big brand to join the boycott on July 19—which has since spread to include Twitter as well for some, with a number of companies saying they won’t spend with social media through the rest of the year or indefinitely until tangible changs are made to address the campaign’s concerns.

Key Quote

“For too long, Facebook has failed to take sufficient steps to stop the spread of hateful lies and dangerous propaganda on its platform,” Patagonia wrote in its statement. “From secure elections to a global pandemic to racial justice, the stakes are too high to sit back and let the company continue to be complicit in spreading disinformation and fomenting fear and hatred.”

BIG Number

Facebook generated $69.7 billion from advertising last year, trailing Google as the second-largest digital marketer. 

Key Background

Facebook has received criticism from civil rights leaders, employees and more for its handling of misinformation, intensified by weeks of anti-racism protests across the world. Calls for change began after Facebook refused to fact check a series of Trump’s tweets, including one from early on in the George Floyd protests that warned “looting” would lead to “shooting,” with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg making clear his stance that social media companies should not be “arbiters of truth.” The #StopHateForProfit campaign website accuses Facebook of facilitating the encouragement of violence, voter suppression and the spread of fake news. “Let’s send Facebook a powerful message: Your profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence,” the website reads.

Further Reading

“In Reversal, Zuckerberg Says Facebook Will Label Newsworthy Posts That Violate Its Rules” (Forbes)

“The Free Speech Face-Off Between Facebook And Twitter: Are Warnings Justified?” (Forbes)

“Google Begins Fact-Checking Images Amid Misinformation Crackdown” (Forbes)

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