Facebook said on Friday that it would ban a “broader category of hateful content” in ads when the embedded social media giant moved to respond to growing protests about its handling of inflammatory posts.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said Facebook would also add tags to posts that are “new” but violate the platform rules – following the leadership of Twitter, which has used such labels on tweets from President Donald Trump.
The initiative comes with the leading social network facing a growing boycott of advertisers – with soft drink Coca-Cola and English Dutch giant Unilever joining on Friday – as activists seek tougher measures against content they deem to promote discrimination, hatred or violence .
The new hateful content policy will “prohibit claims that people of a certain race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status pose a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others,” said Zuckerberg.
“We are also expanding our policy to better protect immigrants, migrants, refugees and asylum seekers” from hateful ads, he continued.
>> Read: Facebook employees attack Zuckerberg over the company’s stance on not acting on Trump services
Facebook has emphasized its moves to prevent racism in the wake of the civil unrest caused by the May 25 killing of African-American George Floyd in Minneapolis police.
“We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and work continuously with external experts to review and update our policy,” said a spokesman.
“The investments we have made in (artificial intelligence) mean we find almost 90 percent of hate speech” and take action before users report it.
Zuckerberg said the “new” exception typically occurs “a handful of times a year” when Facebook decides to leave a message that would usually be removed for violating the rule.
According to the new policy, Zuckerberg said: “We will soon begin to notice some of the content we submit for it is considered new, so people can know when it is so.”
He said users will share the content “but we are adding a question to tell people that the content they share may violate our policy.”
Twitter in recent weeks has labeled at least one Trump tweet as misleading and has marked others as platform rules violators, only available when users click through a warning. The move has made the president and his ally angry.
Internet platforms have been subjected to intense pressure from activists following Floyd’s death.
A coalition including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has urged companies to stop advertising on Facebook using the hashtag #StopHateForProfit.
At the same time, Trump and his allies have expressed anger at what they claim is biased against conservatives.
Brand boycott is accelerating
Zuckerberg did not mention the boycott, but said the changes were based on “feedback from civil rights and reflect months of work with our civil rights auditors.”
Coca-Cola, a major force in global advertising, said it would shut down ads on social media for at least 30 days as it re-examines its policy, even though it said the decision was not related to the #StopHateForProfit campaign.
“There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media,” said James Quincey, president and CEO of The Coca-Cola Company, in a brief statement.
He said that social media companies must provide “greater accountability and transparency.”
Unilever, home to brands including Lipton Tea and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, said it would stop advertising on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in the US until the end of 2020 because of the “polarized election period.”
US Honda said it would stop advertising on Facebook in July, “choosing to stand with people who are associated with hate and racism,” and adds a list that includes US telecommunications giant Verizon and manufacturers of sports goods Patagonia, North Face and REI .
Facebook goes against hate speech in ads “are welcome but (they) account for a small portion of malicious content on the platform,” said Graham Brookie, director of Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, which monitors social media disinformation.
Michelle Amazeen, a Boston University professor of political communication, said details are still unclear.
“Will Facebook allow independent verification of what content they tag and the subsequent effects on diffusion?” she asked.