Verizon pulls ads from Facebook over inaction on hate speech | Technology

Verizon is pulling its advertising from Instagram and Facebook, the biggest name so far in a growing movement to boycott the social network for not doing enough to stop hate speech on its platforms.

The company said on Thursday it will join other companies including Ben & Jerry’s, Patagonia and REI in suspending advertising from Facebook-owned platforms until the company “can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable”.

“We have strict content policies in place and have zero tolerance when they are breached, we take action,” Verizon’s chief media officer, John Nitti, said in a statement. “We’re pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with what we’ve done with YouTube and other partners.”

Facebook acknowledged the growing pressure on a call with advertisers on Wednesday, where a Facebook executive admitted there is a “trust deficit” with its clients on the platform.

The “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign was launched Wednesday by advocacy groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP and Color Of Change. It asks advertisers to pressure the tech giant to adopt stricter policies against racist and hateful content on its platforms by pausing all spending on advertising with the company for the month of July.

As part of the campaign, the groups alerted Verizon that one of its advertisements on Facebook had appeared next to a video from the conspiracy group QAnon drawing on hateful and antisemitic rhetoric.

Facebook makes $70bn in annual advertising revenue while “amplifying the messages of white supremacists” and “permitting incitement to violence”, according to the campaign.

The advocacy groups argue Facebook has failed to address misinformation and hate speech by making Breitbart News a “trusted news source” despite its history of working with white nationalists and neo-Nazis, allegedly allowing housing discrimination against communities of color, and failing to remove Holocaust denial posts.

The pressure on Facebook to moderate hate speech has accelerated in recent weeks as the platform refused to flag false and incendiary statements from Donald Trump, despite moves from rival platform Twitter to do so.

A recent study by the Anti-Defamation League found that the vast majority (77%) of online harassment experienced by respondents took place on Facebook.

“There is more progress to be made but we continue to make significant investments in technology and processes to help us remove hate, harassment and bullying from Facebook,” a company spokesperson said in response to the study.

In response to the advertiser boycotts, Carolyn Everson, the vice-president of Facebook’s global business group, said in a statement: “We deeply respect any brand’s decision, and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information.”

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