Unilever, Maker Of Dove Soap, Is Latest Brand To Boycott Facebook

Unilever, whose brands include Dove shampoo, is the latest big advertiser to raise concerns over social media companies' failures to curb harmful content on their platforms.
Unilever, whose brands include Dove shampoo, is the latest big advertiser to raise concerns over social media companies' failures to curb harmful content on their platforms.
Tengku Bahar/AFP via Getty Images

Unilever, the maker of Dove soap and Hellmann's mayonnaise, will stop advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S. through the end of the year. The company cited a need to end divisiveness and hate speech during a polarized election season.

"Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society," Unilever said in a statement.

The consumer goods giant's decision is the biggest escalation so far in a campaign to force social media companies to crack down on harmful content on their platforms. Shares of Facebook and Twitter fell 7% following the news.

Civil rights groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP and Color of Change, have set their sights on Facebook in particular. They are urging brands to halt advertising on the social network in the month of July, saying it profits off bigotry, racism and violence. Facebook brought in nearly $70 billion in advertising revenue last year.

Verizon, Patagonia, The North Face and REI are among more than 90 brands that have publicly joined the boycott, according to a list compiled by activist group Sleeping Giants.

Unilever, one of the world's biggest spenders on marketing, is by far the largest company to join the boycott. It is going further than the others in suspending ads "through at least the end of the year" and extending the boycott to Twitter.

In a statement, Facebook said it invests "billions of dollars" a year in safety and works with outside experts to review and update policies.

"We've opened ourselves up to a civil rights audit, and we have banned 250 white supremacist organizations from Facebook and Instagram. The investments we have made in AI mean that we find nearly 90% of Hate Speech we action before users report it to us, while a recent EU report found Facebook assessed more hate speech reports in 24 hours than Twitter and YouTube," the company said in a statement.

"We know we have more work to do, and we'll continue to work with civil rights groups, GARM [the Global Alliance for Responsible Media, a group of advertisers, media agencies and tech companies], and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight," Facebook said.

Sarah Personette, Twitter's vice president for global client solutions, said in a statement: "We have developed policies and platform capabilities designed to protect and serve the public conversation, and as always, are committed to amplifying voices from underrepresented communities and marginalized groups. We are respectful of our partners' decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time."

Editor's note: Facebook and Unilever are among NPR's financial supporters.

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