The culmination of year's of pressure on the tech giant to take tangible action in this area, the campaign kicked off last week with an ad in the LA Times.
This drew a direct link between the $70bn Facebook makes from advertising and the hate speech and other fake news that flourish on its platforms. It called specifically for advertisers to withdraw investment from Facebook and Instagram for the month of July…with the potential for something more permanent if Facebook doesn't clean up its act.
Coming hot on the heels of the recent Black Lives Matter protests, which saw many brands ‘discovering’ the issue of racial discrimination apparently for the first time, Stop Hate For Profit asks a probing question of these same businesses: at a time when ad spend is shifting online, offering efficient sales for many, will you move beyond superficial solidarity to practical engagement that could make the world a better place but may have a negative business impact.
After all, a principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something.
Three big outdoor brands have already pledged their support: North Face, Patagonia and REI. Which is maybe not so surprising as each has consistently demonstrated a ‘social justice’ dimension to their brand positioning and business operations. On this basis, boycott is the right thing to do because it is true to their beliefs and behaviour.
But what about others?
For those who’ve never had any skin in this particular game there’s no pressure. Taking a stand would be both surprising and encouraging; doing nothing would probably go unnoticed. Unless, of course, this becomes an issue that achieves critical mass, in which case everyone may have to act or suffer backlash.
But what about those brands who build their positioning around diversity, inclusion and empowerment, or businesses claiming to follow a more purposeful path?
That's everyone today isn't it?
Surely here Stop Hate For Profit is a call to arms you can’t ignore without lack of action undermining the credibility and authenticity of your positioning and claimed purpose. I’m thinking sports brands here (Nike anyone?). Or the likes of Unilever, and Ben & Jerry’s in particular, who to be fair have some form in this area. (although now see UPDATE below)
Our future doesn't have to be the same as it ever was. We stand in a place where positive change is possible. So hopefully we will see more companies follow suit, putting pressure on Facebook to mend their ways. And maybe as their agency partners, this is a question we should be asking of our clients too.
Because at some point the ends can't justify the means, and pro-inclusion organisations (isn't that everyone?) have to stop enabling hate thru their inaction. After all, I'm certain that Facebook are far more concerned about cash than 'free' speech so change will follow.
Ben & Jerry's have now officially signed up. Although only in the US. Which is a slightly odd thing about this campaign - the US focus, and the fact brands are taking this very literally.
Surely hate speech on Facebook is hate speech everywhere...and spend on Facebook anywhere is supporting this? Cutting spend for a month in one market does not fill Zuckerberg with fear and trepidation I'm sure.