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Verizon pauses Facebook ads amid growing boycott

Nearly 100 brands have reportedly joined the effort to push Facebook to do more to combat abusive content on its platform.

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Facebook hauls in $70 billion in annual advertising revenue.

Angela Lang/CNET

Verizon has joined a growing list of companies putting a pause on buying ads on Facebook amid a boycott meant to force the social networking giant to do more to remove abusive content from its platform.

The boycott began earlier this month when six civil rights groups called on businesses to stop advertising on Facebook in July to push the social network to do more to combat hate speech and misinformation. Ice cream brand Ben & Jerry's, outdoor-products seller Recreational Equipment Inc., better known as REI, and outdoor-clothing brand The North Face have already announced their support for the boycott.

A Verizon spokeswoman said the company is pausing its Facebook ads but not boycotting the company.

"Our brand safety standards have not changed," a Verizon spokeswoman said in an email. "We're pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with what we've done with YouTube and other partners." 

Facebook said in response to Verizon's move that it continues to work toward removing hate speech from its platform.

"We respect any brand's decision, and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information," Carolyn Everson, vice president of Facebook's global business group, said in a statement. "Our conversations with marketers and civil rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good."

The Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Colors of Change, Free Press and Common Sense say that boycotting advertising on Facebook will put pressure on the company to use its $70 billion in annual advertising revenue to support people who are targets of racism and hate and to increase safety for private groups on the site. 

The groups are asking Facebook to make several changes, including creating a separate moderation pipeline for hate speech, allowing certain people who've been targeted with harassment or hate to talk to a live person at Facebook, and telling advertisers how often their content was shown next to posts that Facebook removed for misinformation or hate speech. 

A Facebook spokeswoman didn't respond to questions about whether the company is considering any of those recommendations. 

Verizon's move came after the ADL sent an open letter to advertisers urging them to pause their ad activity on Facebook. The ADL says nearly 100 brands have joined the boycott.

The rights groups say Facebook has allowed content that could incite violence against protesters who are fighting for racial justice in the wake of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and others. Facebook faced criticism for not removing a protest-related post by President Donald Trump that advocacy groups and even the company's own employees said could incite violence.

"We applaud Verizon for joining this growing fight against hate and bigotry by pausing their advertising on Facebook's platforms, until they put people and safety over profit," said ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt in a statement. "This is how real change is made."