Written by Tom Jennings
Several of Facebook’s prominent corporate advertisers have signed up to a new campaign, Stop Hate For Profit, launched by a raft of progressive organisations and backed up with a striking full-page ad in the LA Times.
Most notable are the freelancing platform UpWork, web company Mozilla and three popular outdoor gear retailers, the North Face, REI and Patagonia.
All have pledged not to run paid advertising on the social networking behemoth for the month of July, citing Facebook’s failure to protect minority groups from harm online and a laissez-faire approach to fake news and community moderation:
Meanwhile, despite a 10% drop in global advertising spending this year as the Covid-19 crash kicks in, November’s US election looks set to provide a mammoth injection of funds for American tech giants – though not without a healthy dose of controversy.
There's a buzzing conversation in the States at the moment around social and racial justice, prompted by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May. But the impact of the election – coupled with Facebook’s enduring base of billions of users and millions of advertisers – means there is no guarantee the boycott will really dent the company’s profits.
Previous boycotts of tech giants have had only mixed success. Separate campaigns throughout the last decade against Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and Youtube have failed to hit their bottom lines, but have extracted several concessions on fake news and online safety.
Facebook has drawn recent criticism among the above for its comparatively lax policy towards the social media posts of President Donald Trump, refusing to label them as fabrication or a potential incitement to violence.
Perhaps the most significant problem for Facebook the boycott will create, then, is a loss not to its revenue but its reputation. At such a sensitive time, it’s risky to be seen to be behind the curve on important social change – and it's by pressing that point that the boycott might begin to initiate positive change.
All this, of course, is just another episode in the larger, ongoing story of monopolistic American tech firms and the complex problems caused by their involvement in our politics and culture.
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