Here's Why Big Companies Are Boycotting Social Media
Shannon Flynn

Facebook is no stranger to backlash from government officials and consumers. Now, however, big companies are boycotting social media platforms, like Facebook, after following calls to action from civil rights groups.

The social media brand has been in back-and-forth battles with the public and scrutiny from the government for several years now. From fact-checking to demographic targeting to speech monitoring, Facebook's practices frequently warrant backlash.

In the current boycotts, companies of all sizes — and big brands like Coca-Cola — are withdrawing their ads from Facebook. Depending on how long these digital protests last, Facebook could face millions of dollars in ad revenue loss.

Initial Boycotts

On June 17 of this year, three groups called for a boycott to using Facebook for advertising. Color of Change, the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP spoke out against Facebook's lack of action when it comes to monitoring and removing hate speech.

These organizations asked businesses of any size to "hit pause on hate" — meaning they want companies to remove advertising and spending from the platform. Additionally, #StopHateForProfit became a trend that Facebook's CEO Mark Zuckerberg must now confront as the movement gains momentum.

The boycotts are meant to last throughout the month of July, but whether or not they will last shorter or longer is still unknown. Regardless, the movement gained momentum fast, with over 800 companies participating in just three days. Now, over 1,000 companies have joined in — Ben & Jerry's, Dunkin' Donuts, Microsoft, Starbucks, Target, and Verizon are only a few names on the long list.

These boycotts come in response to Facebook's lackluster removal of hate speech on the platform. As an act of solidarity, these companies want the big tech company to more aggressively monitor and remove any form of hate speech.

Though like most platforms, Facebook does remove hundreds of posts — some even before users report them — activists demand more action.

Building Tensions

Social and political pressure has added tension to these boycotts. One building situation is Facebook's lack of regulation when it comes to political posts. Fake news is a digital plague that has been building since the 2016 Presidential Election. However, Zuckerberg has come forward to say that he does not believe social media platforms should monitor political posts — including fake news.

Therefore, any kind of content can remain on the site. Since politics often involves social issues regarding identities, the conflation of fake news and hate speech is an important intersection to monitor.

An undisclosed meeting involving Zuckerberg and President Trump has also added fuel to the fire. Activists and government officials have begun to question if Zuckerberg, and Facebook as well, have any political bias.

Adding further pressure, the murder of George Floyd has led to Black Lives Matter protests across the United States and across the world. With tensions rising between Black Americans, activists and the police, eyes are partially on social media platforms as well.

Civil rights organizations and individuals are encouraging these boycotts to put pressure on Facebook's hate speech monitoring. As racism becomes a central, daily conversation, the social media company will need to do more to address these issues.

Additional Pressure

Protests are still occurring across the country as well as within companies. With 46% of employees expecting compensation will increase throughout the years, businesses must take race and gender into account with pay equity and representation. Otherwise, the boycott will come across as performative. Still, more and more companies are taking part in the movement.

As pressure builds against Facebook, more eyes will be on all companies to improve their dedication to hate speech and inclusivity. For instance, Twitter has faced backlash for not banning white supremacists from the platform. However, Twitter has also taken more action against hate speech than Facebook has — with labels that show which tweets may incite violence or spread false information.

Consumers and businesses then put more pressure on Facebook to follow suit. With the 2020 Presidential Election approaching rapidly, the platform's handling of misinformation and problematic speech will be under a close microscope.

For now, there does not seem to be a clear picture of how harshly the boycotts will affect Facebook's revenue. According to a Bloomberg report, Facebook could lose up to $250 million from the removal of company advertising. Stocks are sharply dropping for now, too.

In response, Zuckerberg released a statement saying he and Facebook are committed to reviewing their policies before the 2020 election. How it all will play out is still uncertain.