Washington (AFP)

Nearly 200 brands, including Coca-Cola, Levis and Starbucks, are boycotting Facebook in the name of fighting hatred on networks, but this movement is unlikely to change the platform in depth.

With the addition of big firms on Friday, like Unilever, the markets reacted: the social media giant lost more than 50 billion dollars in market capitalization in one day, before rebounding by more than 10 billion on Monday.

"We have entered a new era of digital activism," said Greg Sterling, an analyst specializing in online marketing.

"The NGOs appeal to advertisers to clean up social networks, because of their reluctance, even their refusal, to do it themselves. Noted: all social platforms will be forced to review their regulations, to adjust them or adopt new measures that prevent hatred and racism from proliferating. "

The vast movement against systemic racism in the United States has resulted, among other things, in anger at social networks, perceived as too tolerant of racist, insulting or praising speech. violence - including comments by US President Donald Trump.

Associations, including NAACP, the large African American civil rights organization and an organization fighting anti-Semitism, the Anti-Defamation League, have called on companies not to buy Facebook ad space in July.

- Concessions -

Some companies are claiming this campaign, others have simply announced a "break".

Ford says it wants to "reassess (its) presence on these platforms".

"The existence of content related to hatred, violence or racial injustice must be eradicated," said the American automaker Monday.

"The networks will have to take this problem seriously, or their revenues will be directly affected," says Michelle Amazeen, professor of communications at Boston University.

The pressure is mounting, "finally, to make platforms responsible hosts that do not promote hatred and violence to generate profits".

Mark Zuckerberg, the boss of the global social network, has been defending for months his a priori more lax approach than Twitter or YouTube, especially vis-à-vis the speeches of political figures, in the name of freedom of expression.

But as a sign that the boycott has taken on a scale that is hard to ignore, he himself made concessions on Friday.

The platform will now remove more types of hate speech, and problematic policy messages can be hidden and flagged as Twitter.

- 7 million advertisers -

But Facebook has more than 7 million advertisers on its family of applications, and the majority are SMEs.

The campaign against the group "may lead to slight loss of income, but it will rebound," said Larry Chiagouris, professor of marketing at Pace University.

Most boycotts led by brands have blunted after initial enthusiasm, he said.

"Rightly or wrongly, people love their Facebook accounts," he notes.

Advertisers may not long resist the appeal of such a large, targeted and personalized audience.

"We anticipate that most will return to Facebook given its 2.6 billion users. Until then, Facebook can take a few steps to demonstrate that it will reduce hate content," said Ali Mogharabi, analyst at Morningstar.

The associations, not very satisfied with the announcements on Friday, intend to continue to apply pressure.

"None of these first measures will start hatred and persistent racism on the widest social platform in the world," the coalition said on Monday.

They are calling for a senior official, knowledgeable about civil rights, to conduct an independent "hate and misinformation" audit on Facebook.

© 2020 AFP