Reality TV star and businesswoman Kim Kardashian West has joined a slew of Hollywood celebrities who have pledged to boycott Facebook and Instagram for 24 hours to protest against the spread of misinformation and hate speech on the platforms ahead of the US presidential election.
The boycott is part of the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign, which was started by a coalition of US-based civil rights groups in June to urge businesses — both big and small — to stop running ads on Facebook and Instagram. Some of the world’s most prominent corporates, including global consumer goods giants Unilever and Coca-Cola Co., added their names to the list of nearly 100 companies that have pulled their advertising dollars from both platforms in recent months.
I love that I can connect directly with you through Instagram and Facebook, but I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation – created by groups to sow division and split America apart pic.twitter.com/XkxzABn7qw
Now the campaign has been endorsed by dozens of top celebrities, who have participated in the stand-off by freezing their social media accounts on Wednesday in order to raise awareness.
What did Kim Kardashian say?
With over 188 million followers on Instagram and 29 million likes on her official Facebook page, Kim Kardashian West is one of the most popular celebrities on social media. On Tuesday, Kim made waves online when she announced that she would be suspending her accounts for a day to protest against disinformation and hate speech on both Facebook-owned platforms.
“I love that I can connect directly with you through Instagram and Facebook, but I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation — created by groups to sow division and split America apart,” her tweet read.
“Misinformation shared on social media has a serious impact on our elections and undermines our democracy. Please join me tomorrow when I will be “freezing” my Instagram and FB account to tell Facebook to #StopHateForProfit,” she added.
The businesswoman has previously revealed that she earns up to $1 million for a single Instagram post promoting a brand or product. Many critics have slammed Kim, calling the move a mere publicity stunt.
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What is the ‘Stop Hate for Profit’ campaign?
In the wake of nationwide anti-racism protests sparked by the custodial killing of unarmed African American George Floyd in Minneapolis, a coalition of some of the US’ most prominent civil rights groups accused Facebook of doing little to contain the spread of racist content online.
“(Facebook) allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and so many others,” a statement on the campaign’s website reads.
“99% of Facebook’s $70 billion is made through advertising. Who will advertisers stand with? Let’s send Facebook a powerful message: Your profits will never be worth promoting hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence,” it says, urging businesses to pull their ads from the platform.
The campaign gained significant steam with major brand names like US ice cream manufacturer Ben & Jerry’s, movie distributor Magnolia Pictures, and outdoor apparel brand Northface joining the league of businesses boycotting ads on Facebook. However, it was when telecom giant Verizon announced that it was suspending advertising on the social media site that Facebook’s content moderation issues really began to take centre stage.
— The North Face (@thenorthface) June 19, 2020
We will pause all paid advertising on Facebook and Instagram in the US in support of the #StopHateForProfit campaign. Facebook, Inc. must take the clear and unequivocal actions to stop its platform from being used to spread and amplify racism and hate. >>>https://t.co/7OpxtcbDGg pic.twitter.com/I989Uk9V3h
— Ben & Jerry's (@benandjerrys) June 23, 2020
For 82 years, we have put people over profits. We're pulling all Facebook/Instagram advertising for the month of July. #StopHateForProfit
— REI (@REI) June 19, 2020
In the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election, the organisers of the campaign fear that a highly polarised audience on social media could increase the potential for spreading misinformation and discriminatory content.
“In the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election, the organisers of the campaign fear that a highly-polarised audience on social media could increase the potential for spreading misinformation and discriminatory content,” the group wrote in a recent statement, according to the BBC. “Facebook’s unchecked and vague ‘changes’ are falling dangerously short of what is necessary to protect our democracy.”
Who are the other celebrities who participated in the boycott campaign?
Other celebrities who participated in the campaign include Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Katy Perry and Kerry Washington — who collectively have tens of millions of followers on social media.
Misinformation can be harmful. It’s up to us to do our research and make sure what we’re sharing is correct information. It’s up to Facebook and other social platforms to stop the amplification of hate and the undermining of democracy. #StopHateForProfit. https://t.co/BY2kGrYl7B
— kerry washington (@kerrywashington) September 15, 2020
Facebook claims they address hate, yet they continue to look the other way as racist, violent groups and posts sow division and split America apart – only taking steps after people are killed. (1/2) pic.twitter.com/AfO70nEEo8
— Mark Ruffalo (@MarkRuffalo) September 14, 2020
Facebook ignores hate & disinformation on their site. This is not an “operational mistake.” It is a deliberate decision to put profits over people and democracy.
— Jennifer Lawrence – Represent.Us (@JLawrence_RepUs) September 14, 2020
“I can’t sit idly by while these platforms turn a blind eye to groups and posts spreading hateful disinformation,” pop star Katy Perry wrote in an Instagram post. Actor Ashton Kutcher, too, joined the movement and stated that social media was “not built to spread hate and violence”.
Criticism of the move
However, the 24-hour Facebook boycott has also received widespread condemnation from thousands of social media users who claim that the celebrities are just not doing enough. “Way to take a risk people,” a user tweeted with an eye-roll emoji. “Oh god what a sacrifice,” another wrote sarcastically. Many claimed that the boycott was merely a performative gesture and would not bring about actual, substantive change.
How has Facebook reacted to the campaign?
Amidst the growing pressure campaign, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg in June announced that the social media platform was tightening its content moderation policies to better tackle hate speech and misinformation online.
During a livestream, Zuckerberg announced a number of initiatives that his company was introducing to quell growing concerns about hate speech. He claimed that both Instagram and Facebook will up its efforts to protect the interests of marginalised groups and minorities — immigrants, migrants, refugees, among others.
Zuckerberg stressed that posts that “may lead to violence or deprive people of their right to vote” will be taken down regardless of who has shared the post or whether it is newsworthy. They will also introduce a link to its voting information centre on posts which mention voting — including those shared by politicians.
Following the boycott by major corporates, Facebook’s shares fell dramatically. Soon after Unilever announced that it would stop spending ad revenue on Facebook, the social media platform’s shares plummeted by 8.3% — the biggest drop it has seen in three months. According to reports by US media, Zuckerberg’s personal net worth reduced by approximately $7.2 billion, BBC reported.
However, experts have said that the campaign is unlikely to impact the company’s bottom line in the long run. It will however, make a significant impact by raising awareness, particularly amongst the youth.