Facebook VP on ad boycott: We have ‘no incentive’ to allow hate speech

The companies pulling ads from the site now include some of Facebook’s biggest advertisers, such as Verizon (VZ), Unilever (UL) and Starbucks (SBUX).
But on CNN’s “Reliable Sources” Sunday, Facebook (FB) Vice President for Public Affairs Nick Clegg pushed back on the premise of the boycott.

Clegg skirted a question about how damaging the protest has been for Facebook, arguing instead that the social media giant does not benefit from the proliferation of hate speech on its platform.

“We have absolutely no incentive to tolerate hate speech,” Clegg told CNN’s Brian Stelter. “We don’t like it, our users don’t like it, advertisers understandably don’t like it … We benefit from positive human connection — not hate.”

Clegg stressed the efforts Facebook makes to combat hate speech on the platform. The company removes around 3 million items of hate speech content around the world each month, 90% of which are taken down even before being reported, he said.

On Friday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced an expanded policy on hate speech, which includes banning ads that scapegoat minorities, immigrants, asylum seekers, racial or other groups, or claims that those groups are threats.
Facebook will also apply warning labels to user posts that are newsworthy but violate the platform’s policies. The company has been criticized for its inaction on posts by President Donald Trump that other platforms, such as Twitter (TWTR), flagged as glorifying violence or spreading misinformation.
But the moves may not have been enough to satisfy advertisers. After the expanded policy was announced Friday, Hershey’s (HSY) said it would join the boycott, saying, “we do not believe that Facebook is effectively managing violent and divisive speech on their platform.”

And on Sunday, Facebook’s sixth-largest advertiser, Starbucks, also said it plans to pause all social media advertising. While it did not explicitly cite the #StopHateForProfit boycott, the coffee company said in a statement: “We believe more must be done to create welcoming and inclusive online communities, and we believe both business leaders and policy makers need to come together to affect real change.”

Facebook boycott: View the list of companies pulling ads

Clegg said he believes the company has made “meaningful change” but that Facebook will “redouble” its efforts to address hate speech on the platform in response to the protest.

“Unfortunately, zero tolerance doesn’t mean zero occurrence,” Clegg said. “That’s why we constantly need to improve, implementing our policies, enforcing them so that we can seek out what, thankfully, is still a very small minority, but damaging minority, of content on the platform to make people feel safe and for people to continue to enjoy the positive useful experience that people come onto Facebook for in the first place.”

Beyond specific instances of hate speech, Facebook has also faced criticism for the frequent presence of divisive speech on the site. Clegg said the company won’t be able to “get rid of everything that people react negatively to.”

“We will continue what we think is the only sense of the way forward, to have clear rules, to bear down aggressively on hate speech in particular,” Clegg said. “We understand that it’s a very fraught intense time in the nation, and we will continue to demonstrate our sincerity dealing with this problem with the responsibility that we clearly do bear.”

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