Facebook to tag ‘harmful’ posts as boycott widens

Mark Zuckerberg

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Facebook said it will start labeling the potentially harmful posts it leaves because of their news value.

The most practical approach comes when the social media company is under pressure to improve the way it moderates content on its platform, including posts by U.S. President Donald Trump.

More than 90 advertisers have joined the site boycott.

Consumer goods giant Unilever on Friday added its name to the list, citing a “polarized election period” in the United States.

Dove soap and ice cream maker Ben & Jerry said it would stop advertising on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram in the United States “at least” until 2020.

“Continuing to advertise on these platforms right now would not add value to people and society,” he said. “We will revisit our current position if necessary.”

  • Ben & Jerry’s joins boycott of Facebook ads
  • The American phone giant Verizon joins the boycott of Facebook ads

In a Friday speech, Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg defended the company’s record of eliminating the hate speech.

It reported this month’s European Commission report that Facebook removed 86% of hate speeches last year, up from 82.6%.

What did Mark Zuckerberg say?

But he said that the company is tightening its policies to “face the reality of the challenges that our country is facing and how they are manifesting throughout our community”.

He said the company would ban advertisements that describe different groups, based on descriptors such as race or immigration status, as a threat. It will also remove the content, even from a politician, if it determines that it incites violence or represses the vote.

Mr. Zuckerberg also said that the company will label “problematic” content that does not fit into these categories.

“A handful of times a year, we leave content that would otherwise violate our policies if the value of the public interest outweighs the risk of harm,” he said. “Often, seeing the speeches of politicians is in the public interest and in the same way that the news reports what a politician says, we think people should generally be able to see them alone on our platforms.

“We will soon start labeling some of the content we leave because it is deemed noteworthy, so that people can know when it is,” he said.

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Caption of the image

Unilever is behind some of Britain’s best known brands

Twitter has already taken a few similar steps, including banning politicians from advertising and adding labels and notices for certain types of content,including Mr. Trump’s tweets.

“We have developed platform policies and features designed to protect and serve public conversation and, as always, we are committed to amplifying the voices of underrepresented communities and marginalized groups,” said Sarah Personette, Twitter manager.

Facebook and Twitter stocks both fell more than 7% on Friday.

Some boycott organizers said Zuckerberg’s promises didn’t go far enough.

“What we saw in Mark Zuckerberg’s speech today is a failure to fight damage [Facebook] it caused our democracy and civil rights, “said Color of Change president Rashad Robinson.

“If this is the answer he is giving to major advertisers who withdraw millions of dollars from the company, we cannot trust his leadership,” he wrote on Twitter.

Why do companies boycott Facebook?

The “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign was initiated by US civil rights groups after George Floyd’s death in May while he was in police custody. He focused on Facebook, which also owns Instagram; and WhatsApp and last year attracted advertising revenue of nearly $ 70 billion (£ 56.7 billion).

The organizers, which include Color of Change and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said that Facebook allows “racist, violent and verifiably fake content to spread on its platform.”

More than 90 companies including Verizon and Patagonia have joined the campaign, according to a list of the group of advertising activists Sleeping Giants, one of the organizers.

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Media captionMark Zuckerberg told the BBC’s Simon Jack that Facebook would “eliminate” the misinformation of the coronavirus

Nicole Perrin, an eMarketer analyst, said it would be difficult to determine the financial impact of the boycott on Facebook, given the significant changes in advertising in the midst of the pandemic.

But he said the Unilever announcement was significant, noting that the company dropped the announcements longer than required and across multiple platforms.

“This suggests a deeper problem with user-generated content platforms, as division on any platform that allows for political expression can be expected,” he said.

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