Major food and beverage companies including Coca-Cola, Unilever and PepsiCo have joined an advertising boycott of Facebook amid concerns of misinformation and hate speech on the platform. Firms including Diageo, Starbucks and The Hershey Company have also joined the boycott, organised by the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign group. As of Monday 29 June, approximately 160 companies have announced they will stop buying ad space on the world’s largest social media platform for the month of July. The campaign was launched by Free Press and Common Sense, along with US civil rights groups Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League, following global protests against systemic racism after the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and others. The campaign aims to ensure that the social network implements stricter measures around ‘hateful and racist’ content on its platforms. Facebook owns and operates other social platforms including Instagram and WhatsApp, and the company’s advertising revenue stood at approximately $70 billion in 2019. A Reuters report estimates that a quarter of this figure comes from major firms such as Unilever, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. Unilever stated that it is halting all Facebook, Instagram and Twitter advertising in the US “at least” throughout 2020. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society. “We will revisit our current position if necessary”, said the company. Coca-Cola announced on Friday that it will be pausing advertising on all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days. CEO James Quincey stated: “There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media,” adding that Coca-Cola will now reassess its advertising policies to determine whether this will be extended further. PepsiCo, meanwhile, has not publicly backed the campaign, but sources inside the company told Fox Business that the firm had launched a ‘global boycott’, which would run through July and August. In a speech on Friday, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg defended the firm’s record of removing hate speech on the platform. Zuckerberg also claimed that Facebook would now start to label potentially harmful posts that it leaves up ‘because of their news value’. He said: “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. “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 labelling some of the content we leave up because it is deemed newsworthy, so people can know when this is the case.” However, Stop Hate for Profit claimed that these measures were not sufficient, and has called on the social network to introduce a moderation process to help users who are targeted by race and other identifiers, and to provide more transparency regarding how many incidents of hate speech are reported by users.
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