Search & Content Executive
9th July 2020•Insight
June and July 2020 are shaping up to be an interesting few months for Facebook.
Not because of the pandemic, but because Facebook has come under increasing pressure in the last few weeks to make more of an effort to tackle hate speech on its platform.
The debate on hate speech was instigated in late-May by Donald Trump’s response to Black Lives Matter protests in Minneapolis. The President finished a post on both Facebook and Twitter with the line, ‘when the looting starts, the shooting starts.’
Twitter quickly hid Trump’s tweet under a public interest notice for ‘glorifying violence’.
But Facebook did nothing. Mark Zuckerburg refused to flag the post. The Stop Hate for Profit campaign was born. Hundreds of US companies have since pulled their ad spend in response.
The boycott has now reached the UK as well. On 6th July, 37 charities released a joint statement, pledging to pause ad spend on Facebook throughout July. The universities of Nottingham and Newcastle are also reportedly suspending their advertising.
As companies continue to join the boycott and the campaign becomes global rather than national, our social intelligence research is allowing us to stay abreast of this issue. We decided to monitor the impact of online activity and gauge the public’s reaction to its growing support within the UK.
The campaign was launched on June 17th by three civil rights groups. It quickly gained traction and its mention volume across publicly accessible platforms (i.e. those that don’t require a login or have a paywall) peaked at 8,439 two days later. That’s when The North Face became one of the first major companies to get involved.
— The North Face (@thenorthface) June 19, 2020
Mention volume stayed strong for the next fortnight. Another spike on June 29th driven by Prince Harry and Meghan Markle lending their support to the campaign.
We are grateful for the leadership of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in recognizing the importance of solidarity in this moment. Your commitment to truth, justice, and equality are appreciated. #StopHateforProfithttps://t.co/0aiOUflVY7
— NAACP (@NAACP) June 27, 2020
A further slight rise this week followed Mark’s Zuckerberg’s meeting with the organisers of the protest, which didn’t go well.
The Sussexes’ support also seems to have helped increase the exposure of the campaign to UK audiences. While mentions of the campaign overall peaked in mid-to-late June, a quick look at mentions in the UK alone reveals a different pattern.
It’s clear that the UK audience wasn’t fully aware of Stop Hate for Profit until the end of the June 2020. While the overall campaign lost some of its early traction, mentions in the UK spiked in early July 2020 as awareness increased.
The boycott has had lots of publicity and the public perception of Facebook is changing.
Look at pie charts above. Generally, the average sentiment towards Facebook for the first half of the year was almost evenly split.
However, compare that to Facebook’s sentiment since June. It’s two thirds negative. Stop Hate for Profit is clearly resonating and having a negative impact on the overall brand sentiment.
We can dig even deeper and look at the emotions attributed to conversations about Facebook. This starts to highlight how deep the impact on the brand could be. Only 36% of the emotion displayed towards Facebook since the start of June has been joy.
The majority of the remainder of the feelings conveyed by those talking about the brand show anger, disgust, sadness and fear.
There’s quite a contrast when we compare that to the other major social networks.
Despite flagging Trump’s tweets, Twitter has also been impacted by the campaign, with 73% of the emotion towards it either anger, disgust or sadness.
But LinkedIn and Instagram have gone under the radar and come out largely unscathed (which is interesting because Instagram is owned by Facebook).
It’s clear that, while the campaign targets social media as a whole, Facebook and Twitter are seeing the biggest impact.
The Word Cloud below shows trending topics around the #stophateforprofit hashtag since the campaign started.
Facebook and the campaign hashtag #stophateforprofit are front and centre. But combined with other trending topics like hate, racism, violence and misinformation, it’s easy to see where the negative emotion comes from.
Most of the conversation around Trump (84%) and Zuckerberg (66%) was also negative.
Advertising accounts for 98% of Facebook’s annual revenue. But they don’t seem too concerned by Stop Hate for Profit.
Facebook clearly feels secure in its strategy. Zuckerberg called the movement a ‘reputational and partner issue’ rather than a financial one, adding on the 2nd July that advertisers will ‘be back soon enough.’ However, the meeting on 6th July between Zuckerberg and the civil rights groups behind the campaign didn’t go well. It’s clear they’re still some way apart on this issue.
The campaign might not make a huge dent in Facebook’s finances – the majority of large companies and SMEs are still advertising on the platform at this point – but it shows the impact that a targeted campaign can have on a brand’s public perception.
And the boycott isn’t going away. If the campaign continues to expand globally and users start to boycott the platform in large numbers, it could become a real problem, no matter how secure Zuckerberg feels.
Let’s see how this plays out, this story is changing daily. We’ll update this article as more insights develop.
Change starts here
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