Mark Zuckerberg loses $7 billion as companies boycott Facebook ads

Facebook Inc. shares tumbled Friday after Unilever, one amongst the world’s largest advertisers, said it’ll halt all U.S. advertising on both platforms, fueling concerns that other major consumer brands may imitate.

Unilever, which owns names like Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Axe shower gel and has an annual advertising budget of virtually $8 billion, said it won’t advertise on Facebook, Twitter and Facebook-owned Instagram for the remainder of the year due to the hate speech and polarized politics that users often post.

“Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society,” Unilever said in an emailed statement. “We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary.”

Facebook shares extended a decline after the news. The stock had dropped 4.6% earlier Friday, then fell 8.3% to $216.08 at the close. Twitter shares dropped 7.4% to $29.05.

Facebook Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg attempted to address advertiser concerns in a live question-and-answer session with employees on Friday to the growing criticism about misinformation on the positioning, announcing the corporation would label all voting-related posts with a link encouraging users to seem at its new voter information hub, and expanded its definition of prohibited hate speech for advertising.

The Anti-Defamation League, among the collection of civil rights groups that organized the July ad boycott, called the changes announced by Zuckerberg “small.” 

“We have been down this road before with Facebook,” the group said in a statement. “They have made apologies in the past. They have taken meager steps after each catastrophe where their platform played a part. But this has to end now.” 

Facebook has drawn heat from employees and lawmakers in recent weeks over its decisions not to act on inflammatory posts by the president.

“There are no exceptions for politicians in any of the policies I’m announcing here today,” Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post.

Zuckerberg also said Facebook would ban ads that claim people from groups based on race, religion, sexual orientation or immigration status are a threat to physical safety or health.

More than 90 advertisers including Japanese carmaker Honda Motor Co Ltd’s U.S. subsidiary, Verizon Communications Inc and The North Face, a unit of VF Corp, have joined the campaign, according to a list by ad activism group Sleeping Giants.

Coca-Cola Co. said it would pause all paid advertising on all social media platforms for at least 30 days.

“We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and continuously work with outside experts to review and update our policies,” a Facebook spokeswoman said in a statement, adding that the company has banned 250 White supremacist organizations from its platforms. “We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups, GARM, and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight.”

Mark Zuckerberg had previously refused to take action against Trump posts suggesting that mail-in ballots will lead to voter fraud, saying that people deserved to hear unfiltered statements from political leaders. Twitter, by contrast, slapped a “get the facts” label on them.

Until Friday, Trump’s posts with identical wording to those labelled on Twitter remained untouched on Facebook, sparking criticism from Trump’s opponents as well as current and former Facebook employees.

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