Facebook announces new hate speech and misinformation policies amid advertiser revolt

Michaela Handrek-Rehle  Bloomberg

Credit Michaela Handrek-Rehle Bloomberg

Quite frankly, its new hate speech policy is only as good as Facebook's desire to enforce it. Take the aforementioned white supremacy ban, for example. The company, which is one of the world's biggest marketing spenders, cited a need to end divisiveness and hate speech during a polarized election season.

Shares of Facebook and Twitter plummeted 7% on Friday following a decision from European consumer giant Unilever to pull U.S. advertisements until the end of the year.

"Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society", Unilever said in an emailed statement. "We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary", the statement added.

In a speech on Friday, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg defended the firm's record of taking down hate speech.

The company said in a tweet it would stop advertising on Facebook and Instagram, starting immediately, through at least the end of July.

"It is clear that Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are no longer simply negligent, but in fact, complacent in the spread of misinformation, despite the irreversible damage to our democracy", Johnson added. "The policies that we're implementing today are created to address the reality and the challenges that our country is facing and how these challenges are showing up across our platform and our community".

But they do not extend to lies and distortions in ads from political groups or politicians that target other political groups or politicians in ways that do not verge into labeling them as a threat to others based specifically on their racial, religious, or sexual orientations or citizenship status. He also noted that there is no "newsworthiness" exemption allowed for posts that break Facebook's rules against inciting violence or voter suppression.

"Today we're prohibiting a wider category of hateful content in ads", said Zuckerberg.

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.

The social media giant also announced that it will soon "start labeling some of the content" the platform does not remove because it is deemed newsworthy, such as speeches from politicians.

Twitter's vice president of global client solutions, Sarah Personette, said the company is "respectful of our partners' decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time". It added it would shift the spending it had earmarked for Facebook and Twitter this year to other media companies instead.

Some boycott organisers said Mr Zuckerberg's promises did not go far enough.

The label acts as "a prompt to tell people that the content they're sharing may violate our [Facebook] policies", Zuckerberg said in an announcement. In a post, its CMO Jen Sey wrote, "As a company driven by our values, we at Levi Strauss & Co. have a responsibility to speak up and take action when we see major issues arise that impact our employees, fans and community at large". That brings the number of companies participating in the boycott to over 130.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign was started by several USA civil rights groups after the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody triggered widespread protests against racial discrimination in the United States.

Facebook has eight million advertisers which gain the social media site a huge profit every year, and so far Facebook has lost $7 billion from the boycott. The two giants are joining others in the "Stop Hate For Profit" movement led by groups like the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, and Sleeping Giants.

Well, things just got serious with the Coca-Cola Company pulling the plug - at least temporarily - on all digital advertising across all social media platforms globally for at least 30 days.

Why it matters: This is Facebook's attempt to thread the needle between allowing inflammatory posts from politicians and tamping down on problematic content.

Fed Cup: 2020 Finals and Play-offs rescheduled for 2021
Deadly shooting at Black Lives Matter protest in Louisville, Kentucky