How outdoor brands kickstarted Facebook boycott that cost Mark Zuckerberg $7.2 billion

Jun 28, 2020
PHOTO: (From left) @thenorthface, @rei, @patagonia | Instagram

AND just like that, Mark Zuckerberg is $7.2 billion poorer.

The besieged Facebook CEO is facing a flurry of advertiser pullouts as major international brands pledged to boycott placing ads in the social network. Facebook makes most of its money from brands placing advertisements that appear as you scroll through your feed or watch a video.

It was on June 17 that major civil rights groups in the US began a ‘Stop Hate For Profit’ campaign and called on advertisers to withdraw their support of Facebook after the company refused to remove political propaganda and moderate the posts of its users — including US president Donald Trump.

The platform, which runs Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, has come under fire for its decision to keep up a Trump post where the president warned protesters, whom he called “thugs”, that “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” In a message to employees, Zuckerberg defended the hands-off policy and said that the platform was committed to free expression.

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In contrast, Twitter restricted the president’s post for “glorifying violence.” It also labeled two Trump tweets as “misleading.”

Days after the civil rights groups’ call to action, The North Face became one of the first major brands to step up to the plate, according to Forbes.

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The 54-year-old outdoor apparel and gear company, based in California, said that it would stop all advertising for the month of July on Facebook and Instagram until the company implements “stricter policies” for racist, violent, and hateful posts.

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“We know that for too long harmful, racist rhetoric and misinformation has made the world unequal and unsafe,” said the brand in an emailed statement to Forbes.

(Upon checking its Facebook ad inventory, The North Face is not currently running any ads on the platform. However, The North Face Philippines placed an advertisement on Facebook and Instagram as recently as June 23. The North Face’s announced boycott will begin in July. It is also unclear if the Facebook boycott applies to The North Face's operations in other countries. We have reached out to the Philippine branch for clarification and will update the story as soon as we hear back.)

Hours later, REI, another outdoor company, followed suit. Three days later, Patagonia, which manufactures clothing and gear for hiking and mountaineering, said that it is “proud to join the Stop Hate for Profit campaign.”

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The outdoor companies were just the start of the charge.

One week on, major companies in the United States like Unilever (which operates brands like Rexona, Dove, and Knorr), Hershey Co., Coca-Cola, Honda, and US mobile carrier Verizon have also decided to pause their advertising on the platform.

You can view all companies that have joined the 'Stop Hate for Profit' campaign in this Google document. The list also includes Levi's, Viber, and fashion brand fcuk.

“There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media,” said Coca-Cola CEO and Chairman James Quincey in a statement. The brand, however, clarified that they are not joining the official boycott, and that they are pausing advertising in all social media platforms, not just Facebook.

As the weekend opened, Facebook shares plummeted 8.3 percent, its biggest drop in three months. As a result, Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth shed $7.2 billion.

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For context, $7.2 billion is P360 billion. The amount of money earmarked for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response during the passage of the March’s Bayanihan Heal as One law was P275 billion.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, Zuckerberg’s latest financial hit removed him from the ranks of the top three richest billionaires in the world.

On Friday (California time), Zuckerberg said that the company would expand its definition of hate speech, and will disallow ads that label another demographic as “dangerous”. It will also begin labeling voting-related posts with a link that leads to an “information” hub.

However, in a strongly worded memo to advertisers, Carolyn Everson, Facebook’s global vice president for global business solutions, wrote, “I [...] hope by now you know that we do not make policy changes tied to revenue pressure. We set our policies based on principles rather than business interests.”

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PHOTO: (From left) @thenorthface, @rei, @patagonia | Instagram
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