Unilever halts ads on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for rest of 2020

The decision comes as roughly 100 companies have reportedly joined an ad boycott of Facebook.

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Consumer packaged goods giant Unilever will pause advertising on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.  

Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Consumer packaged goods giant Unilever on Friday said it will pause advertising on Facebook , Instagram and Twitter in the US through at least the end of the year. Shortly later, beverage giant Coca-Cola said it would follow suit for at least a month, expanding the social media companies involved to include YouTube.

"The complexities of the current cultural landscape have placed a renewed responsibility on brands to learn, respond and act to drive a trusted and safe digital ecosystem," Unilever said in a release. "We will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the US."

Unilever, which bills itself as the world's second largest advertiser in terms of media spend, has a roughly $8 billion marketing budget, according to its 2019 annual report. After Unilever made the announcement, Facebook shares fell more than 6% and Twitter shares fell as much as 7%. 

Unilever's move is notable, said eMarketer principal analyst Nicole Perrin, because "as one of the largest advertisers in the world, it has enough influence to persuade other brand advertisers to follow its lead."

On Friday, Twitter said it's a place where people can express themselves freely and safely. 

"We have developed policies and platform capabilities designed to protect and serve the public conversation,'' said Sarah Personette, Twitter's vice president of global client solutions, in an emailed statement. "We are respectful of our partners' decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time."

Facebook on Friday said it invests billions of dollars each year to keep its community safe and has banned 250 white supremacist organizations from its sites. The company said it's also invested in AI to find hate speech before it is reported by Instagram and Facebook users. 

"We know we have more work to do, and we'll continue to work with civil rights groups, GARM, and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight," said a Facebook company spokesperson in a statement. 

Facebook has been under pressure to do more to combat misinformation and hate speech. In an internal town hall on Friday, CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the social network will bar ads that contain claims that people of certain racial groups or ethnicities are a threat to the physical safety, health or survival of anyone else. Facebook will also prohibit ads that express contempt, dismissal or disgust of immigrants and refugees, or suggest they are somehow inferior.

Unilever said "continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society." 

On Friday, Coca-Cola said it would pause advertising on all social media platforms for at least 30 days.

"There is no place for racism in the world and there is no place for racism on social media," James Quincey, chairman and CEO of Coca-Cola Co., said in a statement.

Unilever's and Coca-Cola's decisions come as momentum builds for the boycott, which was organized earlier this month when six civil rights groups called on businesses to stop advertising on Facebook in July to push the social media giant to do more to combat hate speech and misinformation. Nearly 100 brands have reportedly joined the effort, including Verizon, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's (which is owned by Unilever) and outdoor clothing brand The North Face

Honda's US division on Friday said it will join the boycott and pause ads on Facebook and Instagram for the month of July. The company is "choosing to stand with people united against hate and racism," said Honda North America spokesman Chris Abbruzzese. The move reportedly includes ads for Honda-owned Acura.

Correction, 5:24 p.m. PT: Fixes information about the organization of the boycott. 

Watch this: Tech giants pledge funds to fight racial injustice, Facebook employees stage protest