Skip to main content

Starbucks Corp. said it would temporarily stop advertising on all social media platforms.Tyrone Siu/Reuters

An advertising boycott against Facebook Inc. gained steam over the weekend despite new promises by the social media giant to restrict hate speech, with Starbucks and Coca-Cola becoming the latest brands to pull their spending to put pressure on online platforms to stop misinformation and hate from spreading online.

Starbucks Corp. on Sunday said it would temporarily stop advertising on all social media platforms “while we continue discussions internally, with our media partners and with civil rights organizations in the effort to stop the spread of hate speech.”

Coca-Cola Co. said it would stop running paid ads on social media for at least 30 days starting on Wednesday. “We will take this time to reassess our advertising policies to determine whether revisions are needed,” chief executive officer James Quincey said in a statement. “We also expect greater accountability and transparency from our social media partners.”

PepsiCo Inc. was also preparing to stop advertising on Facebook in July and August, according to a report on Fox Business News.

The companies are some of the largest consumer brands to join a campaign by several U.S. civil rights groups that calls for advertisers to pull their spending from Facebook for the month of July.

The U.S. division of automaker Honda, telecommunications firm Verizon and Unilever PLC, whose brands include Lipton tea, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and Vaseline, are among more than 160 companies that have signed on to Stop Hate For Profit, launched by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups in response to a global reckoning over racism sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.

Canadian brands that have joined the boycott include athletic wear company Lululemon, outdoor retailer MEC and clothing brand Arc’teryx.

Facebook became the target of the boycott after the company refused to remove a post by U.S. President Donald Trump that called for some people protesting against racism and police brutality to be shot, even as rival social media network Twitter Inc. flagged similar language by the President.

In response to the expanding boycott, Mr. Zuckerberg announced changes to Facebook’s content moderation policies on Friday, including labelling posts as “newsworthy” that contain hate speech but that Facebook allows to remain visible on its platform.

Mr. Zuckerberg said the social-media giant will also direct U.S. users who see posts containing political discussions to authoritative resources about the November presidential election, and would ban ads that include derogatory statements about people based on identifiable categories such as immigration status or sexual orientation.

But the changes appeared to do little to appease either civil rights groups or advertisers.

Hours after Mr. Zuckerberg spoke Friday afternoon, Levi Strauss & Co. said it would pause all of its paid advertising globally on Facebook and Instagram at least through July.

“While we appreciate that Facebook announced some steps in this direction today – it’s simply not enough,” the denim manufacturer’s chief marketing officer Jen Sey said. She said the company wanted Facebook to do more to tackle issues such as voter suppression and hate speech on its platform. “When we re-engage will depend on Facebook’s response.”

Advocacy groups who organized the boycott also criticized Mr. Zuckerberg’s response for falling short of their demands.

The groups have called on Facebook to add a civil rights expert to its executive team, submit to independent audits of its track record on policing hate speech and misinformation, and refund companies whose ads have appeared near posts that Facebook later removes for violating its policies.

“We have been down this road before with Facebook,” members of the Stop Hate for Profit coalition said in a statement. “They have made apologies in the past. They have taken meager steps after each catastrophe where their platform played a part. But this has to end now. "

Several of the companies signing on to the boycott have pledged to suspend their advertising spending only within the United States. But one of the groups behind the boycott said it now wants to press brands to pull their entire global advertising budgets from Facebook. The Silicon Valley giant earned roughly US$70-billion from more than seven million advertisers last year.

“The next frontier is global pressure,” Jim Steyer, CEO of Common Sense Media, a child safety non-profit helping to co-ordinate the boycott, told Reuters on Saturday. The groups hope the pressure campaign will push European regulators to increase their scrutiny of Facebook, he said.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.