Creative Commons photo by Colin Harris  ADE is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Company says it will “pull all ads on Facebook and Instagram, effective immediately”

J.D. Simkins  – June 22, 2020 | Updated June 23, 2020

Outdoor apparel giant Patagonia announced Sunday that it is joining a growing list of companies boycotting advertising on Facebook and Instagram in protest of the social media platform’s tolerance of hate speech and misinformation.

The Ventura, California-based company’s decision mirrors actions taken by The North Face and REI, which joined the #StopHateForProfit initiative last week after its launch by a civil rights coalition comprising the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League, and Free Press, among others.

“Patagonia is proud to join the Stop Hate for Profit campaign,” Cory Bayers, Patagonia’s head of marketing, wrote on the company’s Twitter account. “We will pull all ads on Facebook and Instagram, effective immediately, through at least the end of July, pending meaningful action from the social media giant.”

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Bayers went on to slam Facebook for failing to mitigate “the spread of hateful lies and dangerous propaganda on its platform,” calling the stakes “too high to sit back and let the company continue to be complicit in spreading disinformation and fomenting fear and hatred.”

The Stop Hate for Profit coalition took out a full page ad on June 17 in the Los Angeles Times urging businesses to “stand in solidarity with our most deeply held American values of freedom, equality and justice and not advertise on Facebook’s services in July.”

Skate company Vans is also considering joining the initiative, which was heavily critical of Facebook’s willingness to accept a portion of its $70 billion in 2019 ad revenue from organizations that freely spread conspiracy theories and hate speech without repercussions.

“Let’s send Facebook a powerful message: Your profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence,” the ad read.

Coalition members have each cited the Trump administration as a primary culprit of misinformation spreading, with NAACP president and CEO Derrick Johnson calling for drastic change on the social media platform to ensure the integrity of the 2020 presidential election.

“Facebook remains unwilling to take significant steps to remove political propaganda from its platform,” Johnson said in release.

“It is clear that Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are no longer simply negligent, but in fact, complacent in the spread of misinformation, despite the irreversible damage to our democracy. … We call into question a platform that profits from the suppression of Black votes or Black voices.”

Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s VP of global business, responded to the boycotts by asserting that the company remains “focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information.”

“Our conversations with marketers and civil rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good,” she said.

Critics, however, believe Facebook has not done nearly enough to counteract the onslaught of divisive information-sharing.

Following the May 25 murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police and subsequent spike of nationally polarizing protests, President Trump took to his personal Twitter and Facebook accounts to comment on the protests, writing, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”

Twitter responded to the president’s tweet by applying a warning label to it, but the post went unchecked on Facebook.

“We have been continually disappointed and stunned by Mark Zuckerberg’s commitment to protecting white supremacy, voter suppression and outright lies on Facebook,” Rashad Robinson, president of Color of Change, said in a release.

“Facebook’s failure of leadership has actively stoked the racial hatred we see in our country and even profits off its proliferation. A key way for major corporations to demand racial justice is to withhold their dollars until Facebook becomes more responsible and accountable to Black communities on the platform.”

Facebook made progress in backing up its claims on June 18 when dozens of ads by President Trump’s reelection campaign were deactivated due to their inclusion of an inverted triangle symbol that bore striking resemblance to one Nazis issued political prisoners in concentration camps.

“Our policy prohibits using a banned hate group’s symbol to identify political prisoners without the context that condemns or discusses the symbol,” Andy Stone, a Facebook spokesman, told the Washington Post.

Still, Facebook allowed a total of 88 ads featuring the symbol to run across Trump-related pages, receiving as many as 950,000 impressions on the president’s page alone prior to their deactivation.

“We have long seen how Facebook has allowed some of the worst elements of society into our homes and our lives,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the ADL, said in a release.

“When this hate spreads online it causes tremendous harm and also becomes permissible offline. Our organizations have tried … to push Facebook to make their platforms safer, but they have repeatedly failed to take meaningful action. We hope this campaign finally shows Facebook how much their users and their advertisers want them to make serious changes for the better.”