Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have reached an agreement with major advertisers on the first steps to reduce harmful content online after a boycott of the social media platforms, which advertisers accused of condoning hate speech.
The agreement comes three months after Facebook was boycotted by major advertisers following anti-racism protests following the death of George Floyd, a black American man who was killed by a police officer.
Advertisers have complained for years that the social media giant does too little to prevent advertising alongside hate speech, fake news and other malicious content. At the same time, major technology companies want to be seen as acting to thwart calls for more regulation.
The deal, announced Wednesday by the World Federation of Advertisers, says the platforms will adopt a common definition of hate speech, bullying and other forms of malicious content, and the platforms will adopt harmonized reporting standards.
The platform has agreed that some practices will be reviewed by external auditors to give advertisers more control over the content that appears next to their ads. The deal is expected to take place six weeks before the polarised US presidential election.
“This is an important milestone in restoring trust online,” said Luis DiComo, executive vice president of global media at Unilever, the world’s largest advertiser. “Change doesn’t happen overnight, but today we’ve taken an important step in the right direction.
Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s vice president of global marketing solutions, said of the agreement: “Give us all a single language to help the industry embrace brand safety and compliance requirements and move the fight against online hate forward.I did,” he stated.
Campaigners that want stringent regulation of social media are skeptical of self-regulatory measures like the one announced Wednesday.
“Any progress towards reducing harmful online content is to be welcomed. But so far, voluntary action by social media companies has done little to deliver on their initial promises. So time will show how much this latest industry initiative will change,” David Babbs of the British group Cleanup Internet said in an email to news agency Reuters.
The Stop the Hate for Profit campaign behind the Facebook boycott is backed by the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP, the oldest and largest anti-racism group in the United States. The campaign did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
In a statement last week, it said, “Facebook’s failures have led to real violence and division, and we are urging the company to improve its policies. We must call on people to vote and demand that Facebook stop undermining our democracy,” it said. “Enough is enough.”