Facebook drops $56bn as ‘hate and misleading’ content row bites
Guinness maker Diageo has pulled all advertising globally from social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The maker of huge brands, including Baileys, Gordon’s gin, Smirnoff vodka and Johnnie Walker whisky, joins a growing revolt of big brand advertisers against the failure of social media platforms to control the publication of hateful and misleading content.
On Friday, Coca-Cola, Levi Jeans and Unilever all pulled advertising from some or all social media platforms.
The issue has pushed up corporate agendas ahead of what’s set to be a bitter US general election in November between the incumbent Donald Trump and Joe Biden.
Mr Trump’s aggressive use of social media was in focus yesterday when he shared a video on Twitter that included a supporter chanting “white power”, a racist slogan. The president’s tweet was later deleted.
Diageo said it will pause all paid advertising globally on major social media platforms from Wednesday, but the company left the door open to returning if the social media platforms respond.
“Diageo strives to promote inclusion and diversity, including through our marketing campaigns. From July 1 we will pause all paid advertising globally on major social media platforms. We will continue to discuss with media partners how they will deal with unacceptable content,” the company said.
The backlash from some of the world’s biggest advertisers and brands that like Coca-Cola, Levi’s and Guinness, that have defined the advertising landscape, is a major challenge to Facebook in particular.
Its shares plunged 8.3pc on Friday as the advertising boycott gathered pace, wiping out a staggering $56bn (€50bn) in the paper value of shares.
It wiped $7.2bn (€6.4bn) off Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg’s stake. He addressed the issues raised by advertisers in a question-and-answer session with employees where he announced some changes to the company’s policies.
Facebook will start labelling newsworthy content that violates the social media company’s policies, and label all posts and ads about voting with links to authoritative information, including those from politicians.
The company has weathered previous pressures over content and its use of user data. The boycott by advertisers is likely to intensify in the short term as companies that have not pulled ads now fear being see to endorse content.
In 2017 Google’s video sharing platform YouTube suffered a high-profile boycott after advertisements were found to have been placed alongside user-generated content including videos advocating extremism.
The 2017 YouTube boycott cost the company an estimated $750m in lost revenue.
Ireland’s largest advertising agency Core Media was among companies that pulled ads at the time. Core, whose clients included Heineken, AIB and the National Lottery suspended campaigns over fears that ads might appear alongside extremist content.
However, the company returned to the platform after assurances from Google over the “brand safety” of companies.