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Major advertisers flee from social media as Parler use goes exponential

The campaign against Facebook has metastasised, as big brands increasingly decide all social media is too toxic for them.

This is a period of unprecedented crisis for social media, which is saying something. What started as an apparently politically motivated attack on Facebook has snowballed, such that most major brands are now having a rethink about advertising on any social media, regardless of their censorship policies, due to the inherently uncontrollable nature of the content they host.

For some reason the corporate world seems to have suddenly realised that social media is different from traditional media and that the content you find on it is, by design, impossible to control. Social media companies increasingly try to censor their users in a futile bid to ensure only advertiser-friendly content appears, but it now appears their efforts have been in vain.

One after another major US advertisers are deciding that, in the current cultural environment, they’re not prepared to risk their brand being positioned next to contentious content. While Verizon singled out Facebook, massive consumer-facing companies such as Unilever, Diageo and Starbucks have announced a wholesale move of their advertising spend towards regular media, which they presumably find easier to control.

“Given our Responsibility Framework and the polarized atmosphere in the U.S., we have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.” said a Unilever statement. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society. We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary. We will maintain our total planned media investment in the U.S. by shifting to other media.”

While none of the above companies have made direct reference to the #StopHateForProfit campaign, that hasn’t stopped its representatives and anyone with an apparent agenda against Facebook from unilaterally claiming them as allies.

The main thing the campaign seems to have achieved is to tip corporate America into concluding that paying to give their brands prominence on social media potentially does more harm than good to them. With a general election imminent, the level of partisan vitriol is bound to increase and companies have, quite sensibly, decided they’re better off out of the whole mess.

Meanwhile a new challenger to Twitter appears to have hit critical mass. Parler has seen its user base increase by hundreds of thousands in recent days, apparently as a result of a spate of account suspensions by Twitter itself. Parler makes a virtue of not censoring its users, a policy that is inevitably attractive to people that have been censored or banned from the dominant platforms.

Facebook and Twitter appear to be stuck between a rock and a hard place, in which their advertisers demand a level of censorship many of their users find unacceptable. However, many of the companies abandoning them are sticking with YouTube, which seems to have solved the puzzle of keeping brands and controversy apart. Facebook’s latest attempt to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted seems futile and it will need to take even more radical action before it wins back the trust of corporate America.


8 comments

  1. Avatar Frank 30/06/2020 @ 12:21 am

    Facebook has been “Shadow Blocking” me for years. Do they really think we don’t notice. Twitter banned me long ago for my opinion, not for something bad I posted. I hope they all go bankrupt.

  2. Avatar Concerned Citizen 30/06/2020 @ 11:34 am

    “continue discussion … with … civil rights organizations … to stop … hate speech”

    That is the root of the problem right there. Taking orders from privately owned pressure and extortion groups, and cracking down on the fundamental right of free speech.

    The corporate world is trying to form a symbiosis with the totalitarian Left. That is how Fascism is born.

  3. Avatar MCFC4u 21/08/2020 @ 4:48 am

    Let address the elephant in the room … Silicon Valley in general is leaning pretty far to the left now. As such the issue with censorship on some platforms like Twitter is NOT consistent at all. They are far more tolerant to the far left than they are to the right. Also the interpretation of racism on Twitter is a disgrace. For example racism aimed at a black person will rightly so be censored and removed quickly but Twitter has been less swift or decisive to act against speech deemed anti-Semitic and hate speech against white people in general is tolerated a whole lot more. The double standards are the issue…..

  4. Avatar John 10/11/2020 @ 12:31 am

    We will see how much of this can be sustained. As an advertiser, I am looking out for the new place to market but they don’t have it together yet.

  5. Avatar Antifascist 10/11/2020 @ 6:49 am

    Parler is as full of shit as fat-ass Trump, coward Cruz and Rush-ing to hell

  6. Avatar Richard 10/11/2020 @ 8:51 pm

    The question to ask is how does YouTube do it properly? How do they protect free speech without promoting hate and violence? If they are leaning more toward preventing hate and violence, and less toward complete, Wild West type of free speech, why aren’t users, or advertisers, leaving the platform? How do they do it? And why can’t other platforms do it exactly the same way?

  7. Avatar Gary Brazzell 15/11/2020 @ 1:59 am

    Facebook has been actively trying to get rid of advertisers for years. From removing company names from ads, to rampant erroneous disapprovals, to shutting down accounts for unknown or innocuous reasons, to forcing advertisers into the convoluted Business Manager, to commonly displaying ads incorrectly, so forth, and so on – Facebook has clearly focused more on throwing away paying customers than being decent toward them.

    One light of hope for strategic advertisers is Google Ada’ recent addition of age and income targeting. Unfortunately, Google is clearly falling into the same dysfunction as Facebook, as evidenced by ridiculous, industry altering censorship, rampant erroneous disapprovals, and MIA customer service.

    I am hoping digital radio such as Spotify will be able to step up and give Facebook and Google the competition they desperately need.

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