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A breakthrough in the Facebook advertising boycott came on Wednesday as the company announced CEO Mark Zuckerberg would meet with several groups who organized the effort. A suitable agreement for both sides is far from guaranteed, however, as the organizers push for concrete change.

Last Friday, Zuckerberg announced some well-timed changes to the way Facebook monitors content. They came in the face of the boycott that has seen more than 400 companies—including the likes of Microsoft, Verizon, Starbucks, and several other big names—commit to pausing ad spending for the month of July after Facebook left a post up from President Trump saying “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

In an employee town hall opened to the public, Zuckerberg said the company would ramp up efforts to prevent voter suppression on its platform, particularly tactics targeting race and ethnicity. For example, he said the company would start banning posts falsely claiming immigration officials were checking documentation at voting locations. He added that Facebook would put more effort into flagging false claims about voting in the preceding 72 hours before the U.S. presidential election in November.

The changes had been in development for months and were recommended by a civil rights audit that began in 2018, Zuckerberg said.

Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change—one of the civil rights groups spearheading the boycott along with the NAACP and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)—was not impressed. “Zuckerberg’s address was 11 minutes of wasted opportunity to commit to change,” he tweeted that Friday. “I hope companies advertising on Facebook were watching—if they want to put their money where their mouth is on racial justice, then it’s time to #StopHateForProfit,” he added, referencing the boycott’s hashtag.

Zuckerberg’s latest attempt at diplomacy may do little to convince organizers like Robinson otherwise. In the view of his colleague Arisha Hatch, Color of Change’s vice president and chief of campaigns, “the initial response made a very small tweak, but for the most part just reiterated their existing policies that we know have been insufficient for a while,” she told Fortune. “Mark Zuckerberg and [chief operating officer] Sheryl Sandberg understand that what we really want is a permanent civil right infrastructure.”

A permanent civil right infrastructure would see Facebook appoint a C-suite executive with a background in civil rights to review policies and products for discrimination, bias, and hate. The guidance for this role is outlined on the Stop Hate For Profit website, along with nine other demands. Among them: regularly submit to independent, third-party audits with results published on a publicly accessible website, create an internal feature to flag hateful content in private groups for human review, and enable Facebook users facing harassment to connect with a live Facebook employee for help.

Facebook has faced criticism for years over the way it moderates misinformation and extremist content. The police killing of George Floyd and the demonstrations that followed prompted the latest outcry that has snowballed into this growing boycott, said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL. “We literally had extremists out in the open organizing on Facebook to disrupt these peaceful protests,” he said. “We had people advocating for violent unrest—I’m talking white nationalists and anti government groups—publicly coordinating on the platform on how they would undermine these efforts.

“We reached out to Facebook and said, ‘Hey, we really need a meeting now to deal with these issues,’” Greenblatt added. “And we didn’t get that with Mark and with Sheryl at the highest levels. We decided it was time to act.”

An advertising boycott was a natural choice—Facebook made 99% of its $70 billion revenue in 2019 from ads. Greenblatt stressed that the boycott is just a one month pause: “We don’t think this will somehow change the financial trajectory of the company. Our intent wasn’t to bankrupt the business; the intent was to make a point about the platform.”

Zuckerberg and Sandberg will take the meeting Greenblatt mentioned this time around. They will meet with him, NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson, and Robinson of Color of Change, early next week, an ADL spokesperson confirmed.

On the same day Facebook confirmed Zuckerberg’s attendance, the company also went on the defensive, publishing a rebuttal in AdAge by communications and global affairs chief Nick Clegg. “Facebook Does Not Benefit from Hate,” the piece’s headline reads.

“When content falls short of being classified as hate speech—or of our other policies aimed at preventing harm or voter suppression—we err on the side of free expression because, ultimately, the best way to counter hurtful, divisive, offensive speech, is more speech,” Clegg wrote. “Exposing it to sunlight is better than hiding it in the shadows.”

Hatch of Color of Change said that Facebook could make its stance clear by announcing the aforementioned civil rights infrastructure and making its previously conducted internal civil rights audit available to the public. “Meeting those demands would help a lot of us feel like they’re acting in good faith, that they’re actually trying to solve the problem.”

But she stressed caution, weary of previous pleas with the company that fell short in some critics’ eyes.

“This is not a new demand for Facebook, and it’s unclear why in a moment where so many corporations are trying to stand on the right side of history, why Facebook won’t do that as well.”

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Advertisements for 530 brands — including Unilever, Adidas, White Castle, Starbucks and Coca-Cola — are set to disappear from Facebook starting Wednesday as the Stop Hate for Profit boycott campaign gets going.

Amid a nationwide reckoning over systemic racism and police brutality, a broad range of multinational companies have joined the effort — pushed by civil rights groups who have grown frustrated with Facebook — to pressure the social network led by CEO Mark Zuckerberg into taking more concrete steps to crack down on hate speech.

A range of top Facebook executives, including Carolyn Everson, vice president of global business solutions, Neil Potts, public policy director, and Zuckerberg himself have held meetings with or reached out to advertisers in recent days, according to Reuters and other reports.

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However, sources told Reuters that the executives offered no new details on how they would tackle hate speech. They apparently pointed back to recent press releases, frustrating advertisers on the calls who believe those plans do not go far enough.

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“It’s simply not moving,” one executive at a major ad agency said of the conversations.

Zuckerberg, along with Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg and Chief Product Officer Chris Cox have agreed to meet with the organizers of the boycott, a spokeswoman confirmed to Reuters on Tuesday.

Facebook also has said it would submit to an outside audit of its hate speech controls. In addition, the company is in the process of a multi-year, broader civil rights audit.

It remains to be seen how much of an impact the boycott will have on Facebook’s bottom line. Although advertising accounts for the vast amount of its annual revenue ($70 billion in 2019), the top 100 brands only brought in 6 percent of that total, with most of the ads coming from small businesses, Reuters reports.

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“Facebook does not profit from hate. Billions of people use Facebook and Instagram because they have good experiences — they don’t want to see hateful content, our advertisers don’t want to see it, and we don’t want to see it. There is no incentive for us to do anything but remove it,” said Nick Clegg, Facebook’s vice president of global affairs and communications, in a blog post that defended and detailed the company’s efforts to stamp out hate on its platforms.

In the same blog post, Facebook also announced a major push toward registering some 4 million U.S. voters by featuring information at the top of their News Feed this Friday.

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Mark Zuckerberg just became $7.2 billion poorer after a flurry of companies pulled advertising from Facebook Inc.’s network.

Shares of the social media company fell 8.3% on Friday, the most in three months, after Unilever, one of the world’s largest advertisers, joined other brands in boycotting ads on the social network. Unilever said it would stop spending money with Facebook’s properties this year.

The share-price drop eliminated $56 billion from Facebook’s market value and pushed Zuckerberg’s net worth down to $82.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. That also moved the Facebook chief executive officer down one notch to fourth place, overtaken by Louis Vuitton boss Bernard Arnault, who was elevated to one of the world’s three richest people along with Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates.

Companies from Verizon Communications Inc. to Hershey Co. have also stopped social media ads after critics said that Facebook has failed to sufficiently police hate speech and disinformation on the platform. Coca-Cola Co. said it would pause all paid advertising on all social media platforms for at least 30 days.

Zuckerberg responded Friday to the growing criticism about misinformation on the site, announcing the company would label all voting-related posts with a link encouraging users to look at its new voter information hub. Facebook also expanded its definition of prohibited hate speech, adding a clause saying no ads will be allowed if they label another demographic as dangerous.

“There are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I’m announcing here today,” Zuckerberg said.

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A group of civil rights organizations blasted Facebook on Wednesday, calling out the platform’s role in allowing hate and bigotry to fester and urging an advertiser boycott.

The groups, including the NAACP, Color of Change and the Anti-Defamation League, are asking what the social network could do with the $70 billion in annual revenue that it makes from advertising — claiming that Facebook’s tolerance of hate allowed white supremacy and racism to flourish.

“Today, we are asking all businesses 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,” a full page ad in The Los Angeles Times says. “Let’s send Facebook a powerful message: Your profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence.”

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Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen above.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is seen above.
(Getty Images)

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Although many of these groups have been in conversation with Facebook for several years, and the company has invested in content moderators and machine learning technology to remove hate speech, the organizations believe it hasn’t done enough to stem the spread of racism, anti-Semitism and bigotry.

The tech giant has faced renewed pressure, including from some of its own employees who staged a virtual walkout, to remove or fact-check posts from President Trump regarding the ongoing protests and riots over racism and police brutality in the U.S. However, CEO Mark Zuckerberg defended the decision in a companywide video conference.

In contrast, Twitter put a label on Trump’s tweets for “glorifying violence.”

Organizers, who are starting with dozens of companies that advertise on Facebook and plan to eventually include hundreds, are hoping that the boycott has the effect of forcing the social network to move quickly.

“We have long seen how Facebook has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and our lives. When this hate spreads online it causes tremendous harm and also becomes permissible offline,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, ADL CEO, in a statement emailed to Fox News.

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“Our organizations have tried individually and collectively to push Facebook to make their platforms safer, but they have repeatedly failed to take meaningful action. We hope this campaign finally shows Facebook how much their users and their advertisers want them to make serious changes for the better,” he added.

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A new outbreak of coronavirus in Beijing, China, is claiming an unexpected victim: imported salmon.

On Sunday, Beijing authorities confirmed 59 new cases of coronavirus, which brings the number of active infections in the city to 80. The outbreak marks the city’s first reports of locally-transmitted infections in two months. In total, Beijing has reported 673 infections and nine deaths since the pandemic first broke out in late January.

Authorities believe the cases can all be traced to Xinfadi, a large wholesale meats and vegetables market in the southern city district of Fengtai that supplies 70% of the city’s produce. Public health officials investigating the outbreak found traces of the virus on a cutting board from a seller of imported salmon at the now-closed market, a government official said on Saturday. The disclosure sparked fears that salmon imported from Europe may be contaminated with the virus, putting in jeopardy China’s $700 million market for the fish.

Salmon carrier?

Supermarkets across Beijing have removed salmon from their shelves and traders elsewhere in China temporarily stopped importing salmon, even as public health authorities downplayed the likelihood of salmon as a virus carrier. They’ve have cautioned that, while technically possible, it is unlikely that imported salmon caused the new outbreak.

“Our seafood products are typically stored and transported in cold containers, thus it is possible for the virus to be preserved for a long time and increase the likelihood of infecting people,” said Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “[But] we cannot conclude that salmon is the source of infection just because novel coronavirus was detected on a chopping board of a seller.”

Ben Cowling, a professor of epidemiology at Hong Kong University, said that it’s “very unlikely” the disease came from salmon.

Still, the backlash against salmon in China was almost immediate.

“There is zero demand for salmon now. Deliveries have stopped. But I think this will blow over,” a salmon trader in the southern city of Xiamen told the Australian Financial Review on Monday.

As the largest exporters of salmon to China, Chile, Norway, Australia, and Denmark are set to be hardest hit by the sudden drop in demand.

The Global Times, a Chinese nationalist tabloid, fueled the salmon speculation on Sunday when it floated two possible explanations for the new Beijing cluster: that it came from imported seafood or from infected humans who entered the market.

“It’s much more likely that there was an infected person,” Cowling says.

Lockdown measures

Origins aside, the new outbreak in Beijing has forced the capital into “wartime emergency mode” to contain the spread, local official Chu Junwei said at Saturday briefing.

In response to the outbreak, Beijing officials have embarked on a massive contact tracing and testing campaign for people with links to the market. Authorities converted a sports stadium into a COVID-19 testing center, and on Sunday alone reportedly tested 76,499 people who had visited Xinfadi.

As of Monday, Beijing had placed 20 residential compounds surrounding the market under lockdown and instituted new restrictions on nearby neighborhoods, such as barring non-residents from entering.

Even in this early stage of the outbreak, the city government has punished several officials for allowing the virus to spread. On Monday, it dismissed the manager of the market and two local district government officials for failing to implement proper COVID-19 prevention and control measures, according to Chinese state media.

Provinces surrounding Beijing have warned residents against traveling to the capital city; new cases in nearby Liaoning and Hubei, and Sichuan provinces are believed to have ties to Beijing’s outbreak.

The outbreak and state efforts to associate it with an imported good speak to the nationalist nature of China’s battle against the coronavirus. Beijing has touted its early containment of the virus, first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, as proof that its authoritarian style of government is superior to Western democracies like the United States. Every new outbreak of coronavirus in China is a threat to that claim.

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