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Starbucks pauses all social media ads over hate speech concerns

It's not limiting its action to Facebook, either.
Jon Fingas, @jonfingas
June 28, 2020
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CORTE MADERA, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 10: A customer walks by a Starbucks Coffee store on June 10, 2020 in Corte Madera, California. Starbucks announced plans to close 400 of its company owned cafes over the next 18 months as the coffee shop chain estimates losing over $3 billion due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Starbucks is joining the chorus of major brands withdrawing ads from social networks to highlight complaints about online hate speech. The coffee chain announced it would “pause” ads on all social networking platforms, not just Facebook, while it held internal discussions with civil rights groups and partners. “More must be done” to create inclusive online spaces, Starbucks said, and that meant having both companies and politicians cooperate.

The restaurant explained to The Verge that it would still run ads on YouTube, and would still write social media posts that aren’t paid promotions. It didn’t provide a timetable for the ad freeze. Most other companies boycotting social networks are withholding ads for July.

However long the pause lasts, Starbucks is adding to a list of major brands pulling their ads (largely from Facebook) to press for change, including Coca-Cola, Honda, Hershey and Engadget’s parent company Verizon. Facebook said it wouldn’t make policy changes in response to financial pressure, but nonetheless said it would label politicians’ posts when they break the rules.

Starbucks isn’t committing as deeply as some of its peers. Unlike other brands, the company hasn’t joined the Facebook-focused “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign against Facebook run by the Anti-Defamation League and NAACP. It may be willing to withhold money, but it’s stopping short of directly criticizing specific social networks.

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