Ford joined Verizon, Coca Cola, Unilever, Levi Strauss, Microsoft and the sportswear manufacturer The North Face on Monday, June 29. In all, more than 240 groups, organizations and individuals have decided to support the boycott of Facebook advertising.
They accuse him of not being firm enough against hate speech on his platform and of not having acted, in particular, against a message posted two weeks ago, on May 29, by the American President Donald Trump, perceived as an incitement to violence against protesters from the Black Lives Matter movement.
“In a Monday research note, MKM Partners linked to a spreadsheet that by the evening listed more than 240 companies, organizations and individuals committed to the campaign associated with the hashtag #StopHateForProfit.”
@WSJ $ FB https://t.co/NfftlMiQBI
One more crisis?
And it is on the stock market that the giant of social networks begins to feel the effects of this anger of advertisers, which has lasted for more than ten days. The group had lost more than $ 56 billion in market capitalization late last week.
It is not the first time that a grumbling threatens the empire built by Mark Zuckerberg. The Cambridge Analytica scandal in 2018, the accusations of giving free rein to the Russian propaganda campaign during the 2016 US presidential election, the protection deemed insufficient of personal data: so many controversies that pushed Facebook to its limits and had negative consequences on its financial results. But the group, each time, got away with making adjustments to the operation of its platform and promises to do better in the future.
Read >> United States: what future for the Black Lives Matter movement?
Once again, Mark Zuckerberg used the old recipes with proven effectiveness. He announced on Friday a tightening of controls on political messages posted online, and a ban on certain campaign advertisements. A 180 ° turn considering that ten days earlier, the same had assured not to want to play the arbiter of what was politically tolerable on his platform. “It's a way of emphasizing that he is able to align his platform with what he thinks is the evolution of society, even if it does not correspond to his own convictions”, underlines Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Socialbakers, an Israeli social media analytics company, contacted by France 24.
No alternative to Facebook for an advertiser
But will that be enough to bring advertisers back on track? There are indications that this revolt could make a lot of noise for very little. First, “there are around 200 companies participating in a total of eight million advertisers, which is not very representative”, underlines Johannes Habel, professor of marketing at Warwick Business School, contacted by France 24. Admittedly, large groups have joined this movement, “but we must not forget that the lion's share of Facebook's advertising revenue comes from small and medium-sized businesses that need to reach their customers locally”, recalls l expert from the British university.
The boycotters also do not advance in close ranks. Some have warned that they will refrain from advertising on Facebook for just one month, others have decided to post their budget on Instagram (also owned by the empire of Mark Zuckerberg), not to mention all those who have announced a halt in advertising spending on all social networks, but without invoking their disagreement with Facebook's content control policy. Finally, "it is not excluded that advertisers took the opportunity to get some free publicity by passing budget cuts already implemented because of the economic crisis to support the boycott movement", believes Alexandre Baradez, financial analyst for the consulting firm IG Markets, contacted by France 24.
These are all reasons that push Israeli social media specialist Yuval Ben-Itzhak to believe that this movement will quickly run out of steam. “Facebook's audience means that there is no real alternative for an advertiser. It was like that during the previous social media crises, and I think it will be the same this time, ”he notes. For him, it is enough for Mark Zuckerberg to go back for a while waiting for the storm to pass.
The price of Facebook's success
Not everyone is of this opinion. "This is an unprecedented crisis for the social network because, this time, critics come from all sides: advertisers, investors and users through the hashtag #StopHateforProfit", assures Johannes Habel. For him, the CEO of Facebook will have to “send a strong signal quickly” to demonstrate that his announcements are not just nice words, in order to prevent the movement from gaining momentum. This expert would not be surprised if the social network were to “imitate Twitter” by being more severe with regard to Donald Trump's publications.
Another difference from previous crises comes from Facebook's ever-increasing weight in the financial sphere. The social network “and the other giants of the Net have become the main values that pull up the big American stock market indicators like the S&P and the Nasdaq. If the share of one of these groups drops too suddenly, the entire stock market index will suffer, ”explains financial analyst Alexandre Baradez.
The current American political context does not make life easier for the Facebook boss. This boycott "touches a theme - racial discrimination - which has divided American society for a long time and the electoral campaign risks further exacerbating passions on this subject," notes Johannes Habel. In other words, "whatever Mark Zuckerberg decides to do, he'll make people unhappy," said Yuval Ben-Itzhak, CEO of Socialbakers. If he is not firm enough, he will be accused of wanting to please Donald Trump and if he takes too strong measures “he could very well spark another boycott movement, this time of brands, which would denounce Facebook's attitude as an attack on the principle of absolute freedom of expression in the American way ”, estimates Johannes Habel. For him, this crisis is the first in the history of Facebook “which Mark Zuckerberg can not come out a winner”.
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