Ben & Jerry’s latest company to pull advertising from Facebook over racism

The ice cream maker, owned by Unilever, said it would ‘pause’ paid advertising in the US after similar moves by The North Face, Patagonia and REI.

Ben & Jerry's
Ben & Jerry's

Ben & Jerry’s has become the latest business to join a growing list of firms pulling advertising from Facebook over the platform’s failure to do more to remove hate speech.

The ice cream maker, which is owned by UK consumer goods giant Unilever, said it “will pause all paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram in the US”.

It is one of the biggest moves by a UK-listed business, where reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests from companies has been muted compared with US counterparts.

Earlier this week, The North Face, Patagonia and REI also said they had pulled advertising from Facebook.

Unilever would not say if it would commit other brands in its stable to the move, instead pointing out that Ben & Jerry’s has a long history of activism.

The company also said it would be pushing advertising partners to do more to tackle online racism and hate speech.

Unilever also owns brands including PG Tips, Marmite, Pot Noodle and Dove soap.

Ben & Jerry’s made the move following the launch of campaign group Stop Hate for Profit in the US.

It was set up in the wake of the killing of unarmed black man George Floyd at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, and subsequent Black Lives Matter protests.

They are taking on Facebook after founder Mark Zuckerberg failed to take action on inflammatory posts made by US President Donald Trump and widespread racism on the platform.

Ben & Jerry’s said it is standing with the campaign and “all those calling for Facebook to take stronger action to stop its platforms from being used to divide our nation, suppress voters, foment and fan the flames of racism and violence, and undermine our democracy”.

After the death of Mr Floyd, Ben & Jerry’s chief executive Matthew McCarthy said “business should be held accountable” as he set out plans to increase diversity.

Facebook said previously that it is committed to “advancing equity and racial justice”.

“We’re taking steps to review our policies, ensure diversity and transparency when making decisions on how we apply our policies, and advance racial justice and voter engagement on our platform.”

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign was launched by advocacy groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Color Of Change.

The movement has said it is a “response to Facebook’s long history of allowing racist, violent and verifiably false content to run rampant on its platform”.

Stop Hate for Profit has called on advertisers to pressure the company to adopt stricter measures against racist and hateful content on its platforms by stopping all spending on advertising with it throughout July.

In 2019 the social network attracted advertising revenue of almost 70 billion US dollars (£56 billion).

Facebook said it remains focused on the important work of removing hate speech, and that since 2017 89% of content that broke its rules had been detected before anyone reported it.

“We’re committed to continuing to make significant product investments to tackle hate, and our policy team constantly reassesses our policies to make sure we’re drawing the right lines.

“We must make progress carefully and thoughtfully to ensure well-intentioned systems do not end up taking down legitimate counterspeech.”

Mr Zuckerberg said on the group’s last analyst call that Facebook has 35,000 people working on safety and security, with a bill of “billions of dollars a year” for tackling the problem.

Unilever said: “As a global company, our approach has been and will continue to be to work in partnership to identify issues, offer solutions, and push for meaningful actions.”

A spokeswoman added: “We know there is much more work to be done and we will be working with – and pushing – our partners to deliver the change that is needed.”

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