Three big B.C. brands boycott advertising on Facebook over hate-speech concerns

Mountain Equipment Co-op CEO Phil Arrata | Photo: Chung Chow

What happened: Lululemon, MEC among iconic West Coast brands pulling ads from Facebook

Why it matters: The companies are part of a growing campaign raising concerns over the social media platform’s response to hate speech

A string of iconic B.C. companies are pulling their advertising from Facebook Inc. (Nasdaq:FB) over concerns the social media giant is not doing enough to tackle the spread of hate speech.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. (Nasdaq:LULU), Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) and Arc’Teryx Equipment Inc. say they will not tap Facebook for advertising until at least the end of July.

The Stop Hate for Profit campaign is calling on businesses across the globe to suspend advertising with Facebook and subsidiary Instagram for all of next month.

The campaign cites concerns the social media platform is being used to incite violence against protesters pushing for racial justice in the wake of killings of Black people, while amplifying messages of white nationalist.

“Could they protect and support Black users? Could they call out Holocaust denial as hate? Could they help get out the vote? They absolutely could. But they are actively choosing not to do so,” Stop Hate for Profit organizers state on their website.

The campaign estimates a month-long ad boycott would cost Facebook US$70 billion in revenue if all advertisers participated.

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

Vancouver-based Lululemon, MEC and Arc’Teryx are among about 90 companies so far to have publicly pledged to boycott Facebook for now.

While the campaign calls for a boycott throughout the month of July, Arc’Teryx tweeted on June 23 it was halting advertising immediately until “at least” the end of next month.

MEC announced on Twitter its boycott went into effect June 24.

Facebook did not immediately reply to an inquiry from Business in Vancouver.

The Stop Hate for Profit has outlined 10 next steps for Facebook, including calls to create expert teams to review submissions of identity-based hate and harassment as well as creating an internal mechanism to automatically flag hateful content.

Updated June 29, 12:35 p.m., with comments from Facebook:

"We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and continuously work with outside experts to review and update our 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," Facebook said in a statement to BIV.

"We know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups, GARM [Global Alliance for Responsible Media], and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight."

torton@biv.com

@reporton