The tension caused by the anti-racism protests in the United States is rising. Amid this, a controversial tweet by the country’s most powerful man, President Donald Trump, has made things difficult for social media giant Facebook.
On Tuesday, 23rd June 2020, President Donald Trump tweeted, “There will never be an ‘Autonomous Zone’ in Washington, D.C., as long as I’m your President. If they try they will be met with serious force!”. The tweet was taken down by Twitter and was replaced with a warning that described how the tweet violated “Twitter Rules about abusive behavior”.
However, the same tweet was making the rounds on Facebook and had amassed over 200,000 interactions in a single day.
This inaction by Facebook, along with its behavior regarding the posts by Donal Trump in the past, has fuelled the opinion that the social media platform is refusing to apply its user policies to the President.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, has already been facing a lot of heat because his platform preserved another controversial tweet by President Trump that said “when the shooting starts, the looting starts”.
In response to these events, the campaign group Stops Hate For Profit has called for a Facebook ad boycott against the platform. The organization, which is a coalition of activist groups like NAACP, Color Of Change, and a non-profit organization called The Sleeping Giants, has asked global businesses to “to stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality, and justice and not advertise on Facebook’s services in July.”
The group has presented Facebook with a list of demands that don’t just include decisive action against Donald Trump’s posts but also require the platform to remove all ads that appear with content labeled as misinformation or hate.
The movement has been joined by big brands from across industries. Some of the most recognizable names include Ben & Jerry’s, The North Face, Patagonia, and as of yesterday, Verizon. It is worth noting that Verizon is the biggest Facebook advertiser to join the movement so far. Reportedly, the telecom giant spent nearly $1.5 million on Facebook, and almost $500,000 on Instagram ads in less than a month between May 22nd and June 20th. Overall, Verizon is Facebook’s 78th biggest client.
Last year, ads contributed to 98.5% of the revenue generated by Facebook. It isn’t hard to imagine how a Facebook ad boycott movement has set off panic alarms in the platform’s offices.
The platform’s executives have been reportedly trying hard to persuade advertisers to not suspend their ads on the platform. In their emails and calls during the past week, Facebook executives have been conveying that the company is taking the concerns of civil rights activists very seriously and is actively taking steps to keep the spread of misinformation and hate messages related to the Coronavirus pandemic and anti-racism protests on the platform under strict check.
However, all such communications also highlighted that the platform will not compromise on its policies and will not make any ‘policy changes tied to revenue pressures’.
With the month of July drawing closer, will Facebook INC. be able to persuade its advertisers? Or is this movement going to mean big trouble for the platform? We will find out in due time.