One of the world’s largest advertisers is threatening to pull its ads from social sites such as Facebook and YouTube if the tech companies don’t do more to minimize divisive content on their platforms according to the Mercury News.
Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, called on Silicon Valley on Monday to better police what he describes as a toxic online environment where propaganda, hate speech and disturbing content that exploits children thrive.
“Fake news, racism, sexism, terrorists spreading messages of hate, toxic content directed at children — parts of the internet we have ended up with is a million miles from where we thought it would take us,” Weed said in a speech at the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s Leadership Meeting in Palm Desert. “It is in the digital media industry’s interest to listen and act on this.”
Last year, Unilever spent nearly $9.5 billion marketing its brands, including Lipton tea, Dove soap, Axe body spray and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. One quarter of that budget, or about $2.4 billion, was spent on digital advertising.
Google and Facebook dominate online advertising, and they have come under increased pressure from lawmakers, academics and industry critics to invest more heavily in filtering out misinformation and abusive content on their networks.
Last year, Google’s YouTube faced a vocal backlash from U.S. advertisers who said the company was not doing enough to prevent their ads from being played alongside derogatory and extremist content. Google — a division of Alphabet Inc. — has since adopted changes to the YouTube platform, which draws 1.6 billion monthly users. Those changes include stricter criteria for what types of videos can receive ad dollars, and more human reviews of content.
In response to Weed’s message, Google said it takes its partners’ and users’ trust and safety seriously. “We will continue to work to earn that trust every day,” it said.
Facebook said in a statement: “We fully support Unilever’s commitments and are working closely with them.”