Advertisers are abandoning Facebook in a global movement to address hate speech.
Advertisers are abandoning Facebook in a global movement to address hate speech.

Problem Facebook ‘not ready’ to address

The organisers of an advertising boycott against the world's biggest social media platform have been disappointed by the company's response, as Facebook announces it will make changes to its policies on hate speech.

Large companies have stopped advertising on Facebook in recent weeks in response to pressure from activist groups calling for a boycott to protest the social media platform's lack of action.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign argues that tech companies aren't doing enough to fight the spread of hate speech and misinformation on their platforms.

"We asked businesses to temporarily pause advertising on Facebook and Instagram in order to force Mark Zuckerberg to address the effect that Facebook has had on our society," the campaign organisers said.

On Tuesday, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and its chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg met with the organisers of the campaign, which included representatives from the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) and Colour of Change.

The boycott was largely in response to what Ms Sandberg has said "may be the largest social movement in US history" - the Black Lives Matter movement - which Mr Zuckerberg has previously claimed wouldn't have been possible without Facebook.

In a post on her own Facebook page, Ms Sandberg said that while providing a platform "where everyone can make their voice heard" is at the core of Facebook's mission, "that doesn't mean it's acceptable for people to spread hate".

She said the company has "clear" policies against hate, is striving constantly to get better and faster at enforcing them, and has made real progress towards doing so over the years, but stopped short of providing concrete examples of what the policies are or what that progress entails.

She also said that people have grown tired of companies making symbolic gestures and instead want to see things actually happen.

"Much more than words, people, organisations and companies need to take action - and we at Facebook know what a big responsibility we have," Ms Sandberg said.

She said the company is making changes to address the issues and that they weren't inspired by the recent boycott, but "because it is the right thing to do".

This statement backs up Mr Zuckerberg's comments made to Facebook staff that was leaked and published by The Information.

"We're not going to change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small per cent of our revenue, or to any per cent of our revenue," Mr Zuckerberg reportedly said at a meeting late last month.

Ms Sandberg said meetings she and Mr Zuckerberg were having with boycott organisers and other civil rights groups came a day ahead of the final report from an independent civil rights audit of the social media platform. The findings of this report are likely to be what triggered the policy changes - whatever they end up being.

"While we won't be making every change they call for, we will put more of their proposals into practice soon," Ms Sandberg said.

In a statement of their own addressing the hour long meeting held with Mr Zuckerberg and Ms Sandberg via Zoom, the Stop Hate for Profit campaign was scathing.

"It was abundantly clear in our meeting today that Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook team is not yet ready to address the vitriolic hate on their platform," the statement opened.

"Zuckerberg offered the same old defence of white supremacist, antisemitic, Islamophobic and other hateful groups on Facebook," the organisers added.

The movement has spread around the world including in Australia where protests and rallies have been organised on Facebook. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard
The movement has spread around the world including in Australia where protests and rallies have been organised on Facebook. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

"Instead of actually responding to the demands … Facebook wants us to accept the same old rhetoric, repackaged as a fresh response."

The organisers said the only demand Mr Zuckerberg directly responded to was the hiring of a civil rights position, but didn't commit to it being at the corporate level or detail what they'd be required to do.

"They made no attempt to respond to the other nine recommendations."

"None of this is hard, especially for one of the world's most innovative companies whose founder coined the term 'move fast and break things'," the organisers added.

They accused Mr Zuckerberg of breaking people rather than things and said he could make Facebook better for its users, advertisers and society "with the stroke of a pen".

They encouraged Mr Zuckerberg to "continue thinking about the consequences of what you have wrought and come back to the table soon with real change".

"They showed up to the meeting expecting an A for attendance," Colour of Change head Rashad Robinson told The New York Times following the meeting.

"Attending alone is not enough."