Update on Facebook

Aug 17, 2020

Since I last wrote about hate speech on social media platforms, the CMA collected consumers’ views on the subject in July through Methodify by Delvinia, and I was invited to dialog with Facebook, alongside some major Canadian brands. I’ve consolidated my views in this note. I hope that you find them helpful.

Canadian consumers are unequivocal on this topic, and their views carry weight

The vast majority (84%) agree that hate speech and misinformation is an issue on social media platforms. More than three-quarters believe that companies should withhold advertising dollars from social media platforms if they do not take meaningful steps to eliminate hate speech. And two-thirds would be less likely to purchase products from a company whose ads appeared next to hateful content or misinformation on social media sites.

Advertisers listen to consumers. They are concerned about brand safety and given consumers’ views, they don’t want to support platforms that allow hate speech to thrive.  

Open publishing platforms would cease to be viable if every post had to be pre-approved

Let’s be clear. Facebook does not want to promote or be associated with hate speech any more than you and I do. But their core product is an open publishing platform. Facebook has invested in programmatic approaches to remove certain content, but these are never going to be perfect. And our Canadian sensibilities aren’t uniquely and perhaps adequately addressed by a U.S.-based company. 

Facebook has made some notable progress but advertisers are watching  

On the subject of racism and hate everyone needs to do better. Most organizations have been reviewing their practices. Some are returning to advertise with Facebook. However, advertisers have made it clear that we need to see more commitments met and further progress made. 

Facebook is acting on several of the recommendations proposed by organizers of last month’s boycott.  These included hiring a C-Suite executive with civil rights expertise to evaluate products and policies for discrimination, bias and hate, agreeing to an external audit of their content moderation systems, and undertaking a brand safety audit for advertisers, through the Media Rating Council. They have made several other commitments to complete within specific timelines.

Consider optimizing your media with brand safety in mind

From a brand safety perspective, some brands have lingering concerns, depending on their risk tolerance. The key question is: do you want to advertise on an open publishing platform? Many brands will have no problem. Others may be more circumspect. 

It may be time to reconsider your media mix with brand safety and optimization in mind. We know that consumer media attitudes and behaviour have been changed by this pandemic. Media measurement is improving, and you might find that you get more bang for your buck through greater diversification and perhaps some testing of different media types that align with your objectives. 

One of the CMA’s strengths is that we represent every aspect of the marketing community – brands, agencies, platforms, and more. We are committed to working with our diverse member base to find broad-based solutions to complex issues. 

Stay well,

John Wiltshire




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