The companies join retailers Patagonia, REI and The North Face, which have announced their Facebook distancing in recent days. The “Stop the Hate for Profit” petition was launched by civil rights groups, including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League, which are asking Facebook to take a stronger stance in policing hate speech and disinformation, two subjects the company has been combating for years.
Facebook is under pressure to change its moderation policies in the wake of mass protests around the world following the death of George Floyd. One Facebook user in particular has drawn the most fire: President Donald Trump. In May, Trump posted a message to Facebook and Twitter, saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” suggesting protesters should be met with violence.
Twitter put a warning label on the tweet, while Facebook’s policies did not provide a punishment. The decision not to address the message fueled protests against Facebook. Even though CEO Mark Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives had personally expressed outrage at the president’s comment, the company has been firm in its commitment to avoid censoring too heavily, especially when the messages come from public figures.
Facebook has tried to demonstrate that it is handling other forms of hate speech and disinformation. Last week, Facebook held a call with reporters to outline the ways it is handling election ads, by providing transparency on who buys the ads in a public database. Facebook also announced it would give people the ability to block political ads.
In fact, the ads library shows that Ben & Jerry's is a big spender when it comes to political ads. Since 2018, it spent $1.5 million on Facebook ads that were marked as political. Ben & Jerry's is known for its activity in the area of social justice and promoting those messages in ad campaigns. The ads library also shows all the ads a brand runs, political or otherwise, in the past seven days, but it does not disclose details including how much was spent on non-political ads.
Facebook also noted that it has a high success rate removing posts flagged for hate speech before they are seen. It claims to remove 89 percent of all hate speech posts before they reach the public.
On Tuesday, Facebook reiterated a statement from Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP global business group, which she made following the initial brand boycott by The North Face. “We respect any brand’s decision, and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information,” Everson said. “Our conversations with marketers and civil rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good.”