Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg.
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  • More than 500 companies are now boycotting Facebook in the US in protest at its policies on hate speech.
  • Civil rights groups are demanding refunds for advertisers whose ads are shown next to misinformation or hateful content.
  • Some of the large companies have extended their boycotts to South Africa.
  • For more articles, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

More than 500 advertisers – including Unilever, Ford, Starbucks and Adidas - have now joined in a boycott of Facebook in the US, criticising the social media platform for not doing enough to protect users from hate speech. 

The movement against the social media platforms gathered momentum after a group of civil rights organisations wrote an open letter to Facebook last month after its handling of a post from US president Donald Trump.

In late May, as the Black Lives Matter protests were starting to take root, Trump tweeted about the protesters: "When the looting starts, the shooting starts."

While Twitter decided to place the tweet behind a block warning users that it broke the platform's rules on glorifying violence, Facebook decided to leave the equivalent post untouched on its own platform, prompting outrage from US civil rights groups and Facebook's own employees.

Civil rights groups now demand that Facebook refund advertisers whose ads are shown next to misinformation or hateful content. They also want the platform to fact-check politicians, and remove groups advocating for white supremacy, militia, antisemitism, violent conspiracies, Holocaust denialism, vaccine misinformation, and climate denialism. The only demand that Facebook has so far agreed to, is to appoint a civil rights expert to its staff.

Many of the large international companies in the US have extended their boycott to South Africa.

These companies have now stopped advertising on Facebook in SA:

Diageo

The alcohol giant – which owns whisky brands including Johnnie Walker, vodkas like Smirnoff and Ciroc, Tanqueray gin as well as Captain Morgan rum – has expressed concerns about “unacceptable content, particularly racism” on the social media platform. It has stopped advertising on Facebook in SA.

Coca-Cola

The local division of the cold-drink giant told Business Insider that the company has paused all local advertising on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and TikTok until the end of July. It will also stop posting content on these platforms during this time. 

“There is no place for racism in the world, and there is no place for racism on social media,” Coca-Cola’s global chairman and CEO James Quincey said in a statement. 

Microsoft

Microsoft confirmed reports to Business Insider SA that it stopped social media advertising, also in South Africa.

Sygnia

The fund manager Sygnia has suspended all advertising on Facebook. "We cannot stand by and tolerate hate speech in any form, shape or size," says its CEO Magda Wierzycka.

Vans

The US apparel and shoe producer has extended its Facebook ban to South Africa. "Vans is calling for Facebook to take clear and unequivocal action to curb hate speech and misinformation on their platforms."  The company said its profits "will not support platforms that willingly accept hate, bigotry, racism and violence".

Adidas

The German group, which owns Reebok, will suspend advertising for both brands on Facebook and Instagram this month, including in South Africa.

Companies that are sticking with Facebook:

SAB

“We are not planning to be part of the boycott. The ongoing conversation regarding social media’s role in the current dialogue is bigger than any one platform or single moment in time. It will take an ongoing effort by all of us to combat hate and promote inclusive environments,” a SAB spokesperson told Business Insider.

Ford

While its US owner has stopped social media advertising, the local company will continue to advertise.

Nedbank

 “While we will advertise on these platforms, as a responsible corporate citizen, we expect greater responsibility from media partners as we strive for social cohesion in society,” a Nedbank spokesperson said. 

Still on the fence

Outsurance

A spokesperson said that the company is currently monitoring the situation and “will make a decision in due course”.

FNB

A spokesperson said that the bank is talking to social media partners "to understand their plans to prevent the use of their platforms to spread hate speech and misinformation".

Absa

The bank said that it is taking note of the Facebook boycott, and is yet to make a decision.

Standard Bank

"For Standard Bank, Facebook is one of its advertising channels and client engagement platforms. Accordingly, Standard Bank Group is engaging with Facebook Africa on the measures it is taking to curb the abuse of its platform by some of its users to commit human rights violations, such as hate speech and discrimination," a spokesperson said. 

"Alongside our engagement with Facebook Africa, we will monitor the potential occurrence of these developments in our markets, and the tech company’s response actions to the #StopTheHateForProfit global campaign.

"Based on the outcome of our engagement and taking into account our own findings at the end of July, Standard Group will consider what steps to take, guided by its values and the interests of its stakeholders."


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