Facebook has responded to over a hundred companies that have pulled ads from the social network in the past week. The ad boycott is an effort by some of the nation’s most prominent brands, including Coca-Cola and Verizon, to compel Facebook to update its policy regarding hate speech. Facebook has now announced a first step in addressing the issue. New restrictions will ban any ad that implies hate speech or propagates false information about voting.
The Anti-Defamation League, Color of Change, the NAACP, and other civil rights organizations launched a boycott on Facebook ads for the month of July. In a little over a week, the cause gained broad traction, attracting over a hundred of the nation’s foremost companies. Facebook is now trying to heed the call to limit the spread of hate speech and misinformation.
But Facebook’s new policy only extends to advertisements. No personal posts will be censored, a concession to those who feared Facebook would try to limit free speech.
The updated policy will prohibit “claims that people from a specific race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, caste, sexual orientation, gender identity or immigration status are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of others.” Further regulations will combat ads that convey negative sentiments about immigrants and refugees.
The new restrictions will also tackle the spread of misinformation. This includes inaccurate reporting about the coronavirus pandemic, pro-justice protests, and voting information. In the interest of public awareness, the platform will label posts that can’t be verified. Furthermore, any post that discusses voting will be flagged with a link to Facebook’s voting information center.
“Facebook stands for giving people a voice, and that especially means people who have previously not had as much voice, or as much power to share their own experiences,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a lengthy post. He hopes that his company’s efforts would enable users to “ultimately use their voice where it matters most — voting.” Zuckerberg cited the upcoming election and current civil rights movements as motivators for the change.
The world’s largest social media company, which also owns and operates Instagram, has long been accused of dismissing criticism. But Facebook makes about 98% of its profit from advertisers. As a result, the boycott has intensified the pressure to address the spread of hateful or misleading information.
Still, Zuckerberg credits Facebook’s “civil rights auditors,” Laura W. Murphy and Megan Cacace, for shaping the policy update. Additionally, he says that the many of the changes “come directly from feedback from the civil rights community.”