After years of excuses but little concrete action to combat the spread of hate and disinformation on the world’s largest social media platform – Facebook – advertisers big and small took decisive action this year to take on the social media juggernaut by joining an international campaign to “Stop Hate for Profit.” The campaign, which called for an advertising “pause” on the platform, had no advertisers on board when it was first announced by nine civil rights and advocacy organizations in mid-June. But advertisers, fed up with excuses, soon joined on in droves. The initiative quickly rallied the support of more than 1,200 companies, businesses and nonprofits, including many of the highest profile brands in the world.
The list included iconic American companies like Ben and Jerry’s, Best Buy, Levi’s, Patagonia, REI, Starbucks, Verizon and many others; global brands like Bayer, Honda, Unilever and VW to name just a few; and an extraordinary array of small businesses and mom-and-pop retail enterprises. The ad pause in July was not the full campaign – it was a warning shot across Facebook’s bow. It was followed up in September, when Stop Hate for Profit sought broader engagement, calling on public personalities to take a one-day freeze on Instagram. Within hours, a wide range of celebrities signed on, including Sacha Baron Cohen, Kim Kardashian, Leonardo DiCaprio, Katy Perry, Jamie Foxx, Michael B. Jordan and Jennifer Lawrence. By the end of the week more than 50 A-List Hollywood celebrities and influencers had taken part in the action with a total follower count that eclipsed two billion people. While the campaign was gaining momentum externally, Facebook employees were taking stands internally, adding to a pressure cooker that would finally boil over.
The campaign secured a series of real concessions from Facebook, the kind of substantive changes that it had failed to make in its first 15 years. This included creating a new senior executive role at the company focused on civil rights; a newfound willingness to participate in an audit of hateful content on the service; and finally taking long overdue action to remove violent white supremacist groups, armed militias and hateful content including Holocaust denial.