Major Brands Are Boycotting Facebook—Here’s Why


Design business owners may be reconsidering their July advertising plans

Design businesses that advertise on Facebook may begin to reconsider their upcoming digital advertising plans. A boycott organized by the Anti-Defamation League and civil rights groups like the NAACP is quickly gaining steam across industries, with mega brands like Verizon, Ben & Jerry’s, and Patagonia pledging to pause their advertising on both Facebook and Instagram for the month of July.

The reason? It has to do with the social media giant’s content-moderation policies and its decision to leave up posts by President Donald Trump that perpetuate false information, promote hate speech, or incite violence. (While Twitter has recently instituted a new policy that labels or restricts tweets by the president that are misleading or violate its hate speech policies, Facebook has taken a more hands-off approach, with founder Mark Zuckerberg stating to CNBC, “Political speech is one of the most sensitive parts in a democracy, and people should be able to see what politicians say.”)

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) published an open letter yesterday that outlines why it believes brands should join its boycott campaign, which is titled Stop Hate for Profit: “Our partner organizations have been working with Facebook for years and we’ll continue to work with them. But when it comes to dealing with rampant hate and harassment, the platform continues to come up short. What are they doing with $70 billion in revenue and $17 billion in profit? Their hate speech, incitement, and misinformation policies are inequitable. Their harassment victim services are inadequate. Their advertising placement’s proximity to hateful content is haphazard. And their ‘civil rights’ audit transparency reports aren’t helpful to the civil rights community.”

The letter also points out that when hate speech is tolerated on Facebook, that is bad news for advertisers: “Advertisements are running alongside divisive, hateful, and conspiratorial content—not something that most companies want.” With major brands halting their spending on the platform, the social media giant may be forced to revisit its policies and take a more active stance on suppressing abusive and inaccurate content.

Facebook itself responded to recent debates in a blog post on June 21. “Hate has no place on our platform, and our policies reflect this,” the post reads. “We don’t want the platform to be used to create an environment of intimidation or exclusion. Because hate speech is often dependent on the context in which it is shared, we regularly consult with organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and NAACP to update our definitions and policies.” The letter also outlines steps that the company is taking to make its platform more inclusive, which include revisiting its policies around discussion of topics like state use of force and voter suppression.

For smaller design brands, the decision to suspend Facebook and Instagram spending may be a challenging one. As Modern Retail points out, DTC brands often rely significantly on this advertising to meet revenue goals. Marketing strategist Nik Sharma told the publication that he estimates some 60–80% of marketing budgets for such brands is spent on Facebook. There is also the question, of course, of whether these smaller-budget companies will really be able to move the needle by participating in the boycott.

Still, if you own a design business and aren’t able to fully halt your Facebook advertising next month, now might be a good moment to consider diversifying your marketing spend—and whether alternative platforms can offer the exposure you’re looking for.

This article first appeared in

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