Facebook defends policies on hate but advertisers choose to stay away

Tuesday July 07 2020

Youth browsing Facebook. The social media giant has been under pressure to moderate hate speech on its platform. PHOTO | AFP


Facebook has defended its policies around hate speech and misinformation, amid a massive advertiser boycott.

Facebook says it has been working on getting rid of hateful content on its platforms and has found and taken action on nearly 90 per cent of hate speech (posts) before they’re reported to them, but admits that they "have more work to do".

“We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and continuously work with outside experts to review and update our policies,” a Facebook spokesperson told The EastAfrican on email.

“We’ll continue to work with civil rights groups, Global Alliance for Responsible Media, and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight.” 

While only a few brands stood behind the #StopHateForProfit campaign when it was launched two weeks ago to put pressure on Facebook to act decisively on hate speech and misinformation on its platforms, a host of more than 160 major advertisers have now joined the movement.

On June 25, Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg announced a review of the companies’ policies around hate speech and voter suppression that would see it ban hate advertisements targeting racial groups or ethnicities and will begin labelling posts that violate its policies—even from politicians— but the posts wouldn’t necessarily be taken down.


“In the same way that publications report what a politician says, we think it’s important that people should generally be able to see for themselves our platforms too,’’ Zuckerberg said in live video on his Facebook page.

“We’re still going to allow people to share this content in order to condemn it, just like we do with other problematic content because this is an important part of how we discuss what is acceptable in our society.”

Not even Zuckerberg’s promises could stop the wave of companies pulling advertisement out of the platform as more major brands including Starbucks Adidas and Puma joined the campaign this week.

“We are proud to join the #StopHateForProfit Boycott. We will stop all advertisements on Facebook and Instagram throughout July,” Puma tweeted on Monday

Facebook has been under pressure to moderate hate speech on its platform especially after it failed to flag posts by US President Donald Trump that appeared to advocate violence against protesters following the killing of George Floyd, a black American man by the police in May.

Not even a staged walkout by its employees early June, could however compel the company to act, leading to the birth of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, seeking to stop Facebook from not just promoting hate but also making money from it.

Facebook generates about 98 per cent of its $70billion annual revenue from advertising, and thus the civil rights groups thus the believe the boycott on advertisement on its platforms will hit the company where it hurts.