Tuesday 30 June 2020 12:19 pm

Puma, Adidas, Microsoft and Ford join Facebook boycott

Major global brands have joined a long list of companies that have withdrawn adverts from Facebook amid mounting pressure for the social media site to remove harmful and false content. 

Sportswear giants Puma and Adidas joined a raft of almost 200 major companies around the world including Reebok, Coca-Cola, and Starbucks, that have signed up to pause advertising on Facebook for between one month and six months.

Read more: Facebook announces $200m for businesses owned by black people

Microsoft and Ford today announced they have also frozen spending on the site as a tsunami of criticism mounts over the social media platform’s refusal to remove posts that promote violent, racist and false information. 

A spokesman for Ford said: “The existence of content that includes hate speech, violence and racial injustice on social platforms needs to be eradicated. 

“We are actively engaged with industry initiatives led by the Association of National Advertisers to drive more accountability, transparency and trusted measurement to clean up the digital and social media ecosystem.”

Some of the major brands involved in the campaign or taking similar actions so far include:

  • Puma
  • Adidas
  • Microsoft
  • Ford
  • HP
  • Unilever
  • Verizon
  • Coca-Cola
  • Birchbox
  • Diageo
  • Levi’s
  • Starbucks
  • Lululemon
  • Honda US
  • The North Face
  • Patagonia

The fresh wave of boycotts marks the biggest blow to Facebook’s bottom line in its 16-year history. Microsoft, Starbucks and Diageo, were collectively responsible for almost $239m (£194m) of ad spending on Facebook last year, according to the analytics company Pathmatics.

The high-profile protests have also stirred turbulence for the company on Wall Street. Facebook shares have dropped roughly eight per cent since the boycott started last week, slashing $53bn off the company’s stock market value. 

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckberg’s announcement yesterday that the social media platform would begin labelling rule-breaking posts did little to mollify critics. 

Prince Harry and Meghan Markle last night joined a list of prominent figures speaking out against the company, claiming an “urgent and pressing need” for “structural changes to the online world”.

Fury turned towards Facebook’s head of global affairs Sir Nick Clegg this morning, as the former deputy Prime Minister said the social media giant would “redouble” its efforts to remove hate speech from the platform.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign claimed Clegg’s comments suggesting Facebook will not be able to “get rid of everything that people react negatively to” were insufficient.

Read more: Lords urge government to take immediate action against online misinformation

Jim Steyer, chief executive of Common Sense Media, one of the groups behind the campaign, said: “Nick Clegg is full of b***s***. He and Zuckerberg have a sophomoric approach to free speech that would see them flunk fifth-grade civics with their libertarian ‘free speech trumps all other values in society’ approach.”

Facebook UK boss Steve Hatch weighed into the debate this morning to defend the company. He claimed that “when there’s hate in the world there will also be hate on Facebook”.

“We have been working in this area for many years and we’re actually investing millions in teams and systems to improve,” he told BBC Radio 4′s Today programme. 

“If we look at particularly the area of hate speech … our systems now detect and remove 90 per cent automatically. Now that’s not perfect but we do know that’s up from 23 per cent a couple of years ago,” he added.

Read more: Biden calls on Facebook to rethink fact-checking policy before US election

The number one post on Facebook worldwide on 4 June was a video claiming that George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by a US policeman, was a “horrible human being,” and that “radically motivated police brutality is a myth”. The post received 24m views in just 19 hours.

A Facebook spokesman said: “We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight.”

Before the Open: Get the jump on the markets with our early morning newsletter