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Facebook just lost one of the biggest advertisers in the world for the rest of 2020 – NBC News


The campaign to convince marketers to ditch Facebook has added one of the world’s largest advertising spenders.

The global consumer packaged goods company Unilever announced Friday that it will halt its advertising on Facebook and Instagram, joining a growing movement to stop spending ad dollars on the social media platforms.

The New Jersey-based conglomerate also said it would pull its advertising from Twitter because of a polarized climate on social media, which is being exacerbated by the upcoming election.

In a post on its website, Unilever referred to its “Responsibility Framework that calls for more responsible platforms, content and infrastructure.”

“Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society,” the company stated. “We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary.”

Unilever joins a growing list of advertisers, including wireless service company Verizon, in pausing its ad spending. The moves come as social justice organizations and advertising watchdogs have teamed up to pressure companies with details about how their ads are supporting hate speech.

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The Wall Street Journal was first to report the Unilever news.

Unilever is one of the biggest advertisers in the world, spending about $8.2 billion in 2019 on “brand and marketing investment,” according to the company’s annual report. It owns a variety of consumer brands including Lipton tea, Dove beauty products and the Axe line of men’s grooming products.

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Facebook has been the subject of criticism for its decision not to take action on statements from President Donald Trump that warned that looters during protests would be shot. While the platform has in recent years taken numerous steps to crack down on hate speech, civil rights groups remain critical of the social platform’s role in the rise of extremism along with the latitude it gives to the president.

Facebook spokesperson Andy Stone said the company invests billions of dollars a year to keep its platform safe.

“We’ve opened ourselves up to a civil rights audit, and we have banned 250 white supremacist organizations from Facebook and Instagram,” Stone said in an emailed statement.

Stone also stressed a recent European Union report that said Facebook identified 90 percent of hate speech before it was reported and acts faster that Twitter or YouTube.

The Facebook protest was mobilized by the NAACP, the Anti-Defamation League and other groups such as Color of Change and Sleeping Giants, a group that targets advertisers that support certain right-wing content, among others.

Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, applauded Unilever’s move.

“As one of the largest spenders on Facebook’s platforms, Unilever’s decision to halt advertising and commit to our #StopHateforProfit pledge brings us a huge step forward in holding Facebook accountable for enabling hateful, denigrating and discriminatory content against Black people,” Robinson said in an emailed statement. “Facebook leaders should understand the gravity of this movement for civil rights and take urgent steps to remedy its harms, including implementing a permanent civil rights infrastructure. Facebook cannot afford to look away anymore.”

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg spoke to advertisers this week to calm the storm of protest about how the company is handling both political ads and also the proliferation of hate-speech and untrue information across the board.

Twitter did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Facebook stock was down 7 percent on Friday afternoon, though it had declined throughout the day along with a broader U.S. stock market decline.

Unilever also said in a separate statement on its website that it would remove the words “fair & lovely” from a brand of skin whitening products sold in India as part of an evolution about definitions of beauty.

Claire Atkinson

Claire Atkinson is the senior media editor for NBC News.

Dylan Byers and Jo Ling Kent contributed.

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