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Brands, Facebook and the Stop Hate for Profit boycott

What’s happening?  

On July 1, more than 500 advertisers joined Stop Hate for Profit’s month-long Facebook boycott aimed at stopping racism, antisemitism and hate on the world’s most popular social media platform.

Founded by a coalition of partners including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, the Stop Hate movement asked brands to suspend Facebook advertising for the month of July in the hope of forcing Facebook to reassess its policies toward the hate speech and disinformation that is often exhibited by its users.

What does this mean? 

The movement started out slow but quickly picked up steam when large brands such as Adidas, Honda, Verizon, Microsoft, Unilever, Walgreens and Target joined the boycott. While most participating brands are boycotting Facebook in July only, several have taken the movement further and pledged to stay off Facebook for the remainder of the year – and in some cases, off of all social media including Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn.

Other brands, like Starbucks, have opted to suspend their social media advertising but have not formally joined the Stop Hate for Profit movement.

It remains to be seen if this boycott will effect change, as the 500+ advertisers participating only make up an estimated 6% of Facebook’s global revenue. Facebook has publicly stated it will not be pressured to change its policies, which the company says is centered on the principle of freedom of speech. But the company did agree to a content audit and removed several hundred accounts, many of which belonged to members of the Boogaloo movement of right-wing activists.  

What should marketers be doing? 

Brands should be aware of this online movement and decide what action to take on behalf of their company. Marketers have one of three options: 

  1. Continue advertising on Facebook.This is an especially viable approach if your business model depends on Facebook advertising as its main source of revenue. But ecommerce brands whose targets match the Instagram audience (primarily adults 25-54) might consider shifting spend to Instagram and away from Facebook in July.
  1. Join the Stop Hate for Profit boycott by signing the pledge and suspending Facebook advertising.This is a sound option for brands that don’t solely depend on Facebook for generating revenue. But clearly that’s not the only consideration. Brands considering formally joining the boycott should first take stock of their own history and values to determine whether to align with this movement, which could invite significant scrutiny.
  1. Suspend Facebook advertising without signing the Stop Hate for Profit pledge.This could be a good compromise for brands that don’t depend solely on Facebook advertising to generate revenue but want to support the mission of the boycott, without publicly taking a stand on a potentially controversial issue.

Whatever action your brand takes, you should have a robust communications strategy that includes prepared statements to address social media comments and other queries regarding your actions. Bear in mind that any marketer remaining on the platform could potentially receive backlash from consumers, investors or other important stakeholders, including the potential for being perceived as passively supporting racism.

As of the first week of July, brands continuing to advertise on Facebook have not seen much in the way of consumer and public negative reactions. However, the NAACP and other participating organizations have been promoting the boycott on mainstream media outlets in recent days, and as more people are aware the negative sentiment could rise.

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