Industry Updates, Facebook Advertising, Paid Social Media

A Guide To The Boycott On Facebook’s Advertising Platform

Could you imagine losing $7.2 billion in a matter of a few days? Well, it’s not such a big surprise for the founder of Facebook INC., Mark Zuckerberg. –

– Recently, a few of the largest advertisers in the world, including Unilever, Honda, Verizon Communications, Hershey and Coca-Cola – all decided to boycott Facebook’s advertising channel.

And furthermore – these brands decided to pull-out of allocating their advertising investments towards this platform.

For how long? Indefinitely.

So – I decided to figure out what exactly led these brands to act upon these harsh advertorial decisions. And – just what was Facebook’s response to these conglomerate’s concerns?

What Lead Advertisers To Put Facebook On 'Pause'?

The Boycott Catalyst

Brands decided to stop in their paid social advertising initiatives involving the social media giant, after Facebook was accused of failure to sufficiently address hate-speech and disinformation policy updates.

The backlash intensified last month during globally, wide-spread protests against racism and police brutality. And hence – Facebook was ruled as a party which didn’t react accordingly, nor appropriately to these circumstances.

Rather specifically – displaying a supposed negligence to the misleading posts published by the US president.

The kind involving unverifiable, harmful claims that would potentially perpetuate violence.

Facebook’s Stance - Part .I

The Initial Address

And while Facebook’s standing was an attempt to refrain from political involvement, their decision to disregard a communal standard towards their policy rulings towards those that ‘are more equal than others’ – was indeed controversial for many users, advertisers – and even internal employees.

Mark Zuckerberg addressed this concern rather quite elegantly, by mentioning that people should be able to see posts openly, and ‘for themselves, because ultimately accountability for those in positions of power can only happen when their speech is scrutinized out in the open.’

He also confirmed that politicians would also not be exempt from any company earlier announced policies.

The vice president of Global Business Group at Facebook Carolyn Everson additionally, added in an email which targeted advertisers – ‘We do not make policy changes tied to revenue pressure .. We set our policies based on principles rather than business interests.’

Facebook’s Actions

Early-June Policy Updates

Facebook VP & CEO’s statements were supported by their updates from the beginning of June, when Zuckerberg announced these following changes to existing policies:

  1. Reviewing of the policies regarding discussion and threats of state use of force (first, regarding excessive use of police or state force in general; second, when a country has ongoing civil unrest or violent conflicts);
  2. Reviewing of voter suppression cases and taking into account the realities of voting during the pandemic;
  3. Reviewing options for handling violating or partially-violating content;
  4. Working on establishing a clearer and more transparent decision-making process;
  5. Elevating the representation of diversity, inclusion and human rights in FB processes and management team discussions;
  6. Building products to advance racial justice;
  7. Focusing on making sure everyone has access to accurate and authoritative information about voting, as well as building tools to encourage people to register to vote and help them encourage their friends and communities to vote as well.

However, the increasing tensions domestically within the states – coupled with unsatisfactory applications of Facebook’s then-recent policies for civil rights groups and business community, led to this advertising boycott.

Facebook's Stance - Part .II

Mr. Zuckerberg’s Next Move

After an incremental rate of boycott from advertisers saw no end in sight – Mr. Zuckerberg aimed to ease these concerns through posting an update with the following points that covered – voting, voters’ suppression, and ultimately – fighting hate-speech through policy updates which would be applied to the advertising platform:

Authoritative /Information Credibility

He assured the provision of authoritative information for the voting process during this 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Facebook would herein be showing the Voting Information Centre right at the top of their properties over coming months (until November 2020).

This includes apps such as – Facebook and Instagram, with the focus on preventing new forms of potential voter suppression.

Removal of ‘False-Claims’

And as additional steps to support the fight on voter-suppression – Facebook would also respond by removing false claims surrounding polling conditions.

Hateful Content ..

.. & Such Portrayals

Facebook will aim to establish a higher-standard for hateful content portrayed in their ads, as Zuckerberg claims that they approximate the identification and elimination of almost 90% of hate-speech. And this is prior to anyone even reporting them to the company.

They already prohibit a broader category of hateful content in the ads they run. Still – their ads policy will regardless be further expanded.

Prohibiting Discrimination

This further expansion is set to contain prohibiting claims around discriminations towards people from any race, ethnicity, national-origin, religious belief, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status. This also includes – those that pose a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of said groups or any others.

This policy expansion is said to also equip Facebook with a capability towards better protecting their immigrant, migrant, refugee and asylum seeker users – or otherwise – from any ads potentially posing an inferiority-type connotation, contempt, dismissal or disgust towards them.

Labelling ‘Newsworthy’ Content

Zuckerberg also introduced labelling of newsworthy content as Facebook is said to commence tagging their content which remains published – due to it being deemed newsworthy by internal authorities. This is so people can remain in-the-know and appropriately judge content as a credible resource of accurate information.

Zero-Tolerance In Problematic Content

Zuckerberg additionally claimed that they would ‘allow people to share this content to condemn it, just like they do with other problematic content.’

In Zuckerberg’s own opinion, this is an integral part of how people can decide what’s acceptable in society. Facebook will hence label shared content which may violate these policies. Furthermore, he pointed out (again) that there will be no tolerance, nor exception towards content promoting violence, voter suppression or any exemptions for any personalities or groups.

Investing In Similar Technological Upgrades /Innovations

Zuckerberg claimed an intention for further investments towards the development of tools and technologies which would efficiently detect /remove hate-speech.

Facebook, In-Response ..

Tackling Hate-Speech

The Social Media Conglomerate’s Transparency Efforts

Earlier on in June 23rd, Facebook already shared their independent report which touched on fighting hate-speech within their advertisement platform. Something of a product stemming from their agreements after signing the European Commission’s Code of Conduct to counter any resonance of illegal hate-speech – online.

Ever since – the social media conglomerate posts a publicly-accessible transparency report every six months, covering how they continuously improve their reviewing processes.

Facebook’s fifth Report is accessible here

According to this independent report, Facebook assessed 95.7%, and Instagram assessed 91.8% of hate speech notifications in less than 24 hours, compared to 81.5% for YouTube and 76.6% for Twitter.

Upping Their Investments

Facebook officials mentioned that handling hate-speech requires significant investments. Therefore, they increased their contributions in both – widening their workplace safety and security measures for internal teams. Additionally, including those team members who review manually review hate-speech remarks. As well as the development of AI technology which would be aimed towards automating the proactive detection and removal of such flags before people report it.

This recently released report showed that Facebook now proactively finds and takes down almost 90% of the hate speech. In response to the increasing boycott, Zuckerberg – and later, Nick Clegg (VP of Global Affairs & Communications) – repetitively highlighted their impressive audit results.

Unfortunately – these flagship progressions are usually left blindly disregarded by these advertisers and socially proactive groups.

Facebook Solidifying Their Grip On Hate-Speech

Facebook’s last open letter – penned by Nick Clegg on the 1st of July – was about the divisive nature of society and therefore, a sizeable 3 billion-user-heavy representative slice of it from their social platform.

He acknowledged the criticism of the company’s approach in handling hate-speech which lead to this current, deeply unsatisfied groups and their collective unsatisfaction which resulted in this boycott.

He therefore, assured that Facebook takes a zero-tolerance approach to the hateful messaging spanning over 100 billion opinions and wider interactive user experiences being exchanged on a daily basis. Clegg then continued to admit to this approach being not entirely error-free. He emphasised the efforts they consistently make to improve the process and the confirmation of that success received from the European Commission. He also mentioned recently adopted new policies and products around the voting in the USA to make this process more transparent for American people and tackle voter suppression.

They haven’t additionally addressed the problem of hate speech and other types of harmful content in that open letter. Neither have they introduced any extra measures.

Yet have decidedly focused on the rather positive sides of their social networking capacities: connectivity, business support, information access and creating opportunities for solidarity against injustice /hate.

Is It Enough to Appease the Boycott-ing Powers-that-be?

Dear Advertisers ..

Every company that previously used Facebook’s platform and its monumental reach for advertorial purposes, should in fact decide for themselves whether Facebook is gunning to oblige these societal concerns that are pressurising the entity.

And ultimately meaning – asking yourself – ‘are Facebook’s efforts good enough to deem it a partner-worthy entity that is in-tune with your own moral /ethical values to the degree of deserving your advertising investment?’

Obviously – the vast majority of smaller advertising (especially in e-commerce and direct-to-consumer sales), can’t afford to boycott advertising with Facebook. Their survival in this oddly-unfolding 2020 remains practically dependant on only Facebook’s platform. Without any other alternatives in sight.

Yes. The platform has become a must-buy for many advertisers. In-most part due to their highly whopping sizes and diversity numbers. In other words – the platform’s vast reach that is the kind to produce those juicy, data-lead marketing learnings and targeting options so brands may reach customers smoothly.

Relevancy In The 2020’s: This COVID-19 Pandemic

Today, Facebook’s targeting opportunities are quite difficult when being compared with any other available advertising channel. Moreover – as businesses had abruptly paused significant advertising efforts when this 2020 COVID-19 pandemic hit the planet – they are now eager to return by ramping-up on their ad-spending. This is mostly due to the diminishing severity of globally-imposed quarantine restrictions, as countries around the world tip-toe into permitting business operations.

My Own, Two-Cents

Facebook is a unique platform unlike any other with its capacity for reaching different people – something which continues improving through their algorithms, and by responding to societal challenges proactively. And yes – sometimes the business community may not be too happy about existing regulations.

But even then – at least, it shows that they are open to challenging discussions.

It’s always very difficult to balance between the freedom of speech and opposite political forces in an attempt to stay neutral and non-biased. Still, I think Facebook makes everything for us to believe that they are apolitical and focused only on the availability of the information and connectivity of people around the globe.

It will also be interesting to see if this situation could impact the cost of advertising on Facebook – which showed an increase over the last three-year period.

Or, maybe – it’s just a well-timed, beautifully-grounded excuse for big-buck advertisers to abandon this platform in favour of rather affordably efficient alternatives.


But just one question – who are they and where are these invisible pixie-dust advertisement lands where all paid ad dreams come true?




Maria is unarguably among the Indago-ers that never fail to impress readers with their thorough industry research – and thought-provoking pieces.

You can hear more from Maria in her update on cookie-less tracking & GDP – & more on the Indago Digital blog – also, by following us on LinkedIn today!

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