Maker of Ben & Jerry’s, Dove pulling US Facebook, Twitter ads

Verizon joins several other companies in boycotting ad buys on Facebook

Twitter in recent weeks has labeled at least one Trump tweet misleading and has flagged others as violating platform rules, making them accessible only when users click through a warning. Twitter, on the other hand, labeled tweets by the president that falsely said mail-in ballots would be fraudulent and that appeared to called for violence against protesters. Following prior advertiser defections announced earlier this week, Carolyn Everson, VP-Global Business Group of Facebook, has said: "We deeply respect any brand's decision and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information".

Facebook is also banning false claims meant to discourage voting, such as stories about federal agents checking legal status at polling places.

The company said it will redirect spending from those platforms elsewhere.

Ethan Zuckerman, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Center for Civic Media, said the changes are a "reminder of how powerful Facebook may be in terms of spreading disinformation during the upcoming election".

"If every post that mentions voting links, people will start ignoring those links".

But Zuckerman noted that Facebook "has a history of trying hard not to alienate right-leaning users, and given how tightly President Trump has aligned himself with voter-suppressing misinfo, it seems likely that Facebook will err on the side of non-intrusive and ignorable labels, which would minimize impact of the campaign".

Unilever is halting all ad spending on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the US through the end of the year, the company said, in a marked departure for a company that has avoided prior digital media boycotts.

Facebook is also going to take additional steps to restrict hate speech in advertising.

"The polarized atmosphere places an increased responsibility on brands to build a trusted & safe digital ecosystem", the company tweeted as it joined USA telecom giant Verizon and sporting goods makers Patagonia, North Face and REI in the boycott.

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Shares of both Facebook and Twitter fell roughly seven per cent following Unilever's announcement.

Verizon has joined a growing boycott of advertisers boycotting Facebook and its Instagram subsidiary after the company's handling of objectionable posts has left many brands uneasy on the massive social platforms.

In spite of Facebook and Twitter's obvious bias against conservative content, a number of liberal groups have apparently decided that the social media companies are not doing enough to enforce liberal orthodoxy and have begun a successful campaign to get companies to stop advertising there.

Unilever, whose brands include Dove shampoo, is the latest big advertiser to raise concerns over social media companies' failures to curb harmful content on their platforms.

"A handful of times a year we make a decision to leave up content that would otherwise violate our policies because we consider that the public interest value outweighs the risk of that content", Zuckerberg said in the town hall.

On Friday, Unilever announced it would end advertising on Facebook and Twitter citing their "polarized atmosphere [s]".

Our mission is to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely.

"We invest billions of dollars each year to keep our community safe and continuously work with outside experts to review and update our policies", a spokesperson said.

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