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Finnish advertisers quietly join Facebook boycott

About a dozen firms are said to have either scaled back or suspended advertising on the social media platform.

Kuvassa on like-kyltti Facebookin pääkonttorin ulkopuolella Kaliforniassa.
Some advertisers have been giving Facebook a thumbs-down. Image: John G. Mbanglo / EPA

A movement in the United States to pull advertising from social media platform Facebook over its perceived failure to rein in misleading and hateful content appears to have gained a foothold in Finland.

According to Riikka-Maria Lemminki, CEO of lobby group Marketing Finland, some firms have cut back on advertising with the social media giant.

"To my knowledge there about a dozen or so firms that have recently reduced advertising on Facebook, or put it on hold, precisely due to the recent discussion," Lemminki told Yle.

The purpose of the boycott campaign is to force Facebook to intervene in the hate speech and racist content that many say is largely unregulated on the platform.

"Facebook does not have sufficient control over content and it has permitted racist discourse. They need to change that," Lemminki declared.

Fear of "greenie" label

Many US companies have moved to "unlike" Facebook and have said that they will not resume spending on advertising on the platform unless it takes decisive action to more effectively crack down on the spread of hateful content. They include large companies such as teleoperator Verizon, ice cream firm Ben & Jerry’s and active wear company The North Face, as well as well-known global brands such as Unilever and Coca-Cola, among others.

However Finnish firms joining the boycott have not been vocal about their actions.

"Companies haven’t wanted to make a big number of it because many are afraid of being labelled 'greenies' and what could follow. In other words, people [will] think that they just want to show how virtuous they are," she explained.

Zuckerberg under pressure

Facebook director Carolyn Everson told Yle that the company respects brands’ decisions and that it will continue to work to combat hate speech. She added that Facebook is also engaging with NGOs on the matter.

The beleaguered social media channel has said that it has banned 250 white supremacist organisations from both Facebook and Instagram, the photo-based platform it also owns. It added that it identifies nearly 90 percent of hate speech before users report it on Facebook.

Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg had previously pushed back against calls to take action against US President Donald Trump over a post perceived to condone violence during Black Lives Matter protests in the US earlier in June.

However the growing list of advertisers defecting from the platform has seen the firm reverse course on the previous policy not to police posts by politicians that would otherwise violate the platform’s rules.

On Friday the company’s share price fell eight percent, shaving an estimated seven billion dollars off Zuckerberg’s fortune.

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