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US Facebook Advertising Boycott to Expand Internationally

In this Aug. 21, 2018, file photo, a Facebook start page is shown on a smartphone in Surfside, Fla. Facebook says it's working to help limit the spread of misinformation and harmful content about the coronavirus and will focus on providing helpful inform
US Facebook Advertising Boycott to Expand Internationally
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American organizers of a Facebook advertising boycott say they are seeking support in Europe to push the social media service to do more to remove hate speech.

The “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign has received support from more than 160 companies. They include American corporations like Coca-Cola, Levi Strauss & Company, Patagonia and The Hershey Company.

The companies united to stop buying advertising on Facebook, the world’s largest social media company. The boycott, which includes Facebook-owned Instagram, was launched following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died on May 25 after a white police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes. The incident was caught on video. Floyd’s death led to widespread protests across America aimed at police and racial inequality.

Anger over Floyd’s death also led to public demonstrations in cities across the world. Some corporations also released statements denouncing racism in society.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign is supported by several U.S. civil rights groups and non-profit media organizations.

One group is the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The ADL said in a recent open letter that Facebook’s “hate speech, incitement, and misinformation policies are inequitable.”

The group said Facebook’s efforts to find and remove hateful material are not effective. It added that a company’s ad can appear on Facebook next to “hateful or divisive” material. The ADL also criticized the company for failing to remove false information appearing in advertisements or published by users.

Critics have said that Facebook reported receiving $70 billion in advertising money in 2019, while earning about $18 billion in profit.

One campaign supporter is the group Free Press. It said that even with such high advertising profits, “the company has repeatedly failed to meaningfully address hate, incitement to violence and disinformation across its products.”

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign has created a set of demands for Facebook.

Among them are the establishment of a new process to help users targeted with ads based on race and other identifiers. The groups are pushing Facebook to release more information about the number of hate speech reports it receives. They also want the company to stop making money from ads linked to harmful content.

Jim Steyer heads the media education group Common Sense Media. He recently told the Reuters news agency that the campaign will start calling on major companies in Europe to join the boycott.

“The next frontier is global pressure,” said Steyer. He added that he hopes the campaign will lead regulators in Europe to reexamine policies covering the social media company. Earlier this month, the European Commission announced new guidelines for technology companies to report monthly how they are attempting to reduce misinformation about the new coronavirus.

Steyer said the campaign will urge major international advertisers like Unilever and Honda - which have already stopped buying U.S. ads - to halt all Facebook ads worldwide.

Campaign organizers say they also plan to keep urging more U.S. companies to take part in the boycott. Jessica Gonzalez is co-leader of the group Free Press. Gonzalez told Reuters she recently contacted big U.S. telecommunications and media companies to ask them to join.

Responding to demands for more action, Facebook has admitted the company has more work to do. It said it was working with civil rights groups and experts to develop more tools to fight hate speech. Facebook said its investments in artificial intelligence (AI) tools permit the company to identify about 90 percent of hate speech before users report it.

I’m Bryan Lynn.

Sheila Dang reported this story for Reuters. Bryan Lynn adapted the report for VOA Learning English, with additional information from the Stop Hate for Profit campaign and online sources. Mario Ritter, Jr. was the editor.

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Words in This Story

kneel – v. to put one or both knees on the ground

inequitableadj. not fair

divisiveadj. causing disagreements between people

address – v. to discuss

contentn. the information or ideas included in a book, film or on the internet

frontiern. the limits of what is known or what has been done before

regulatorn. the prople or institutions that make rules or laws that control something

artificial intelligencen. the power of a machine to copy intelligent human behavior