Facebook has reportedly lost USD 7.2 billion as nearly 100 high profile companies pull their advertisements as part of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign, which calls on the platform to take action against the spread of misinformation and hate speech. 

Industry giants including Starbucks, Coca Cola, Version, Levi’s, Mozilla, and The Hershey Company are among the companies that have joined the growing boycott as part of the #StopHate4Profit campaign. The effort, led by US civil rights groups including the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) and the NAACP, encourages companies to pull their ads from Facebook and Instagram, citing the platform’s “repeated failure to meaningfully address the vast proliferation of hate on its platforms.” 

The social media company’s stocks plunged on Friday, marking a record loss of 8.3%, after Unilever, which owns brands including Vaseline, Dove, and Ben and Jerry’s, pledged to stop advertising on Facebook as the site declined to take action against the surge of misinformation that surfaced amidst worldwide protests against racism and police brutality. 

“Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society,” said Unilever in a statement, adding that they would revisit their current position if necessary.

Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has responded to the mounting criticism about misinformation by introducing several changes to the platform, announcing that all posts and ads about voting will be labelled with links to its new Voting Information Center, which provides users with accurate, up-to-date information about voting. Users will also gradually be given the option to opt-out of all political advertising. “There are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I’m announcing here today,” said Zuckerberg. 

In a separate statement, the company also touched on its previous efforts to crack down on the spread of hatred by pointing to its investments in AI technology, which is said to identify nearly 90%” of hate speech before it is reported by users. “We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups […] and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight,” the statement concluded.

The company’s reversal on its previous stance comes after weeks of controversy after President Trump’s post, which stated “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” in relation to the George Floyd protests, was left uncensored by Facebook, despite the post violating Facebook’s policies. In contrast, Twitter flagged the post as “glorifying violence”. The subsequent widespread criticism led to hundreds of Facebook employees participating in a virtual walkout and two public resignations in protest.

With the US presidential elections scheduled to take place in November, Facebook’s repositioning could have further ramifications on the election campaigns, cracking down further on fake news and media bias. The social media giant took down several of Trump’s campaign ads under their hate group imagery policy that utilised a Nazi symbol to criticise anti-facist political movement Antifa earlier this month, according to Techcrunch.

Facebook has previously come under fire for its role in influencing the 2016 presidential elections by allowing millions of data points to be collected, analysed, and utilised by political parties to launch highly personalised ad campaigns. In the aftermath of what has become known as the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica data scandal, Mark Zuckerberg was further criticised for failing to respond adequately to privacy concerns. 

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