Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg [pictured]. Nationwide and Nissan said it had pulled its Facebook ads while the problem was resolved, Dove said it was working with Facebook to remove offensive content and refine the targeting of its ads. Photo: Bloomberg
Media experts have described the decision by a number of multi-national advertisers to walk away from deals with Facebook as a "watershed" moment for the social network as concerns rise about ad placement next to offensive content.
The Financial Times reported that advertisers including Japanese car maker Nissan and UK building society Nationwide had cancelled their Facebook advertising campaigns and Unilever's skincare brand Dove had complained about being associated with misogynistic and other offensive images and comments.
The advertisers had signed up for new "targeted" advertising on Facebook, where individual users are served up ads based on an assessment of their interests made by Facebook's algorithms. However, that has meant that if these users then visit offensive pages, whether deliberately or inadvertently, the companies' ads are placed next to the content.
The FT reports that Dove was alerted to the problem when images of their advertising next to misogynistic content began circulating on other social networks like Twitter.
An online campaign aimed at encouraging Facebook to more strictly moderate offensive content was also mounted by interest groups like Women, Action and The Media and The Everyday Sexism Project. This was targeted at pages on Facebook, which made jokes about rape and domestic violence.
Nationwide and Nissan said it had pulled its Facebook ads while the problem was resolved, Dove said it was working with Facebook to remove offensive content and refine the targeting of its ads.
Head of digital at M&C Saatchi, Christian Purser, is quoted in the FT describing it as a "watershed moment for Facebook."He said Facebook had to take responsibility for content if it expected to continue growing its advertising revenue.
Early this morning Facebook announced it would update its policies on policing content that included "hate speech." This will include updating the guidelines its operations teams use to investigate reports made of inappropriate content.
"We will increase the accountability of the creators of content that does not qualify as actionable hate speech but is cruel or insensitive by insisting that the authors stand behind the content they create," a statement from Facebook's vice president of global public policy, Marne Levine said.
It said the company would also establish more formal and direct lines of communications with representatives of groups working in related areas, including women's groups, to ensure expedited treatment of content they believed violated standards.
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