Criticism of Facebook’s approaches to hate speech and misinformation may hit the social network where it hurts the most: its finances. CNN reports that clothing brand The North Face has become the most recognizable company yet to join an advocacy group-backed ad boycott of Facebook, pulling all its ads from both Facebook itself as well as Instagram for the month of July. Outdoor equipment seller REI joined the boycott soon afterward along with the recruiting firm Upwork.
In a statement, The North Face parent VF Corp said it would stop all activity and paid ads until there are “stricter policies” to thwart hateful, misleading and violent material from circulating on Facebook’s platforms. VF added that other brands like Vans and Timberland were “considering” joining the boycott.
In response, Facebook VP Carolyn Everson said the company “deeply respect[s]” brand decisions and that it “remain[ed] focused” on pulling hate speech and providing voting information. It was talking to civil rights organizations and marketers about how they could ally as a “force for good.”
The boycotts are only temporary, and won’t make much of an immediate dent in the revenues of a company that pulled in nearly $70 billion in ad money in 2019 and continues to thrive during a pandemic. Nonetheless, they could draw attention to complaints that Facebook hasn’t done enough to stamp out hate and false claims. Workers at the social media giant recently staged a virtual walkout over their employer’s refusal to remove President Trump posts that allegedly glorified violence. Facebook has been removing user accounts for promoting hate speech and just recently pulled Trump campaign ads that appeared to use a Nazi camp symbol, but those reflect its existing policies — critics are clearly hoping for changes to the policies in question.