Verizon’s decision came after the Anti-Defamation League — one of the groups behind the #StopHateForProfit campaign to pressure Facebook into adopting more aggressive steps to combat hate and harassment — said it found an ad for Verizon on Facebook next to a video from conspiracy group QAnon.
The QAnon video included “hateful and antisemitic rhetoric” and warned that FEMA is “planning to bring on civil war with concentration camps and coffins at the ready and claiming Americans are already quarantined in militarized districts,” according to the ADL.
In a statement, a Verizon spokeswoman said, “Our brand safety standards have not changed. We have strict content policies in place and have zero tolerance when they are breached, we take action. We’re pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with what we’ve done with YouTube and other partners.”
Facebook did not respond to a request for comment. Verizon’s suspension of ad spending applies to both Facebook and Instagram.
In the past week, advertisers including Magnolia Pictures, Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s, REI, Patagonia, North Face, and Eddie Bauer have joined the “Stop Hate for Profit” effort, organized by ADL, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Color of Change, Free Press and Common Sense.
Facebook execs in conversations with clients have been in damage-control mode, trying to alleviate marketers’ concerns, the Wall Street Journal reported. But the same time, it’s pushing back on the idea that a boycott will lead it to change its practices. “We do not make policy changes tied to revenue pressure. We set our policies based on principles rather than business interests,” Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s head of marketing solutions, wrote in an email to advertisers last weekend, per the Journal.
The campaign has “one simple goal: convince social media companies to finally put people over profit,” ADL Jonathan Greenblatt wrote in a blog post. The groups are calling on advertisers to pull spending from Facebook and Instagram for the month of July.
Facebook’s “hate speech, incitement, and misinformation policies are inequitable. Their harassment victim services are inadequate,” Greenblatt wrote. “Their advertising placement’s proximity to hateful content is haphazard. And their ‘civil rights’ audit transparency reports aren’t helpful to the civil rights community.”
Among the events that have angered Facebook’s critics were its decisions to not take action against Donald Trump’s inflammatory remarks on its platforms, including a May 29 post in which he said about Minneapolis protesters, “Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts. Thank you!”
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg previously said Trump’s “looting and shooting” post didn’t violate company policies forbidding incitement of violence, and he has said the company will not “do fact-checks for politicians.” A week later, Zuckerberg said Facebook would review its content-moderation policies in the wake of the controversy.