Starbucks will join the growing list of corporate entities pausing advertising on social media platforms, the company said in a blog post Sunday. The coffee giant says that it stands “against hate speech” and believes “both business leaders and policy makers need to come together to affect real change.”
“We will pause advertising on all social media platforms while we continue discussions internally, with our media partners and with civil rights organizations in the effort to stop the spread of hate speech,” the blog post, titled “Creating Welcoming and Inclusive Online Communities” states.
A Starbucks spokesperson told The Verge Sunday that the company’s social media advertising pause will not include YouTube, and while Starbucks will continue to post to social media, it won’t do paid promotions.
Starbucks also is not officially joining the “Stop Hate For Profit” campaign organized by the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, and other social justice organizations. The campaign is aimed specifically at Facebook and its moderation policies around violent threats, misinformation, and hate speech, and calls for a boycott of advertising on the platform for the month of July. Unilever, Verizon, the North Face, Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, Magnolia Pictures, Honda, and Hershey have all signed on to the Stop Hate for Profit campaign.
The Coca-Cola Company went a step further and announced Friday it was pausing all digital advertising on all social media platforms globally beginning July 1st. Multinational beverage company Diageo made a similar pledge.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced a series of changes last week which weren’t directly in response to the advertiser boycott, but address some of the criticisms of the company’s policies. “Facebook stands for giving people a voice, and that especially means people who have previously not had as much voice, or as much power to share their own experiences,” Zuckerberg said in a company town hall. “It’s really important that we make sure our platforms live up to these principles.”
Facebook and Instagram ban all posts promoting conversion therapy
Instagram on Thursday announced a new ban on all forms of content, including posts and videos, promoting the widely discredited practice known as conversion therapy, which attempts to forcefully change an individual’s sexual orientation. The news was first reported earlier today by CNN.
A spokesperson for parent company Facebook tells The Verge this recent change in policy is an expansion of an earlier rule specifically banning ads promoting the practice put in place earlier this year, and that the policy now includes a ban on any content that directly promotes the practice, too. The spokesperson confirmed the ban applies both to Instagram and the company’s main social network, which share hate speech policies.
“We don’t allow attacks against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity and are updating our policies to ban the promotion of conversion therapy services,” Tara Hopkins, Instagram’s public policy director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa, said in a statement given to CNN in response to conversion therapy content promoted by a UK religious group called Core Issues Trust. “We have removed violating content from @coreissuestrusttv. We are always reviewing our policies and will continue to consult with experts and people with personal experiences to inform our approach.”
Conversion therapy is banned in one form or another in at least 19 US states, in most cases protecting minors, but it remains legal at the federal level in the US and allowed in large swaths of Europe and elsewhere in the world. It is often peddled by religious organizations as a pseudo-science with no basis in fact and studies show it has direct links to higher rates of depression, drug use, homelessness, and suicide among young adults, many of whom are subjected to it without their consent.
Instagram says the ban applies worldwide as part of an expansion of its global hate speech policies. Only Germany has a law on the books banning the practice for minors, meaning Facebook and Instagram’s shared content ban on conversion therapy should help shut down organizations in Africa, Europe, the US, and other regions trying to advertise or promote the practice online.
Facebook reportedly considering ban on political ads before election
Facebook is reportedly considering a ban on political ads before the US elections this year. Bloomberg reported the news this afternoon, saying that the idea is being discussed internally but is not yet a firm policy. Sources also confirmed the discussion to The New York Times. The step would drastically escalate Facebook’s current plans for preventing misinformation or meddling in the 2020 elections.
There’s not much detail about the policy, but based on Bloomberg’s report, the blackout would be brief — a matter of days before election day in November. Facebook has previously allowed users to “turn off” political ads and added disclosure requirements, and it’s attempting to provide reliable information with a voting hub. But it’s stopped short of banning the ads themselves, in contrast with its rival Twitter, which announced a political ad ban last year.
Bloomberg writes that there are concerns about hampering “get out the vote” efforts or restricting how a candidate could respond to breaking news.
However, a ban would also protect Facebook from bad publicity from inflammatory ads — like a Trump ad that it removed due to Nazi imagery. For Facebook critics who argue the site promotes polarization and manipulation, a temporary blackout may also be considered a way of limiting its effects in the immediate lead-up to the election.
Update 4:00PM ET: Added corroboration from The New York Times.
Supreme Court will hear Facebook robocalling case
The Supreme Court has agreed to hear Facebook’s defense after an appeals court determined it violated anti-robocalling rules. The court will examine whether Facebook’s automated alert texts count as an “automatic telephone dialing system,” establishing a clearer definition of illegal phone spam.
Facebook was sued in 2015 by non-Facebook user Noah Duguid, who complained that he’d been receiving unwanted text messages from the site. The alerts told Duguid that someone was trying to access his nonexistent Facebook account, and he couldn’t get Facebook to stop sending them. Duguid argued that Facebook had violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which is supposed to protect Americans from unwanted auto-dialed calls.
Facebook said the texts were sent by mistake, and it claimed its automated system was functionally similar to a standard smartphone, so a ruling against it could make ordinary phone calls illegal. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed with this logic and said Facebook’s texts clearly fit the category of “automated, unsolicited, and unwanted” phone messages. The Supreme Court will settle the question for good.
This case will complement another recent Supreme Court robocalling decision. Earlier this week, the court overturned a legal exception for government debt collectors, sidestepping an attempt to strike down the prohibitions. Facebook raised a similar issue in its petition, but the court will focus instead on the definition question.
If Facebook ultimately loses its case, it could be required to pay damages to any user who received unwanted messages within a period of several years. The Supreme Court’s decision may also affect which automated calls are considered legal. But robocalls are surging regardless of the laws against them — so it might not make a huge difference to many people.
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