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Facebook boss Zuckerberg: Boycott advertisers will be back ‘soon enough’

CEO Mark Zuckerberg in Limbo and Could Be Held In Contempt

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg (pictured) has struck a defiant tone against the firm’s hate speech boycott, saying that advertisers will come back “soon enough”.

More than 400 advertisers – including Pfizer, Microsoft and Starbucks – have pulled their marketing from the tech giant over the last two weeks in protest over what they see as the firm’s refusal to adequately police objectionable views.

But the social media firm’s co-founder and chief executive told a worker’s meeting that the wave of protest would soon pass.

“My guess is that all these advertisers will be back on the platform soon enough,” Zuckerberg told a staff meeting reported news website The Information on Wednesday, although the gathering was held last Friday.

Facebook runs on ‘principle not revenue pressure’

Zuckerberg said: “We’re not gonna change our policies or approach on anything because of a threat to a small percent of our revenue, or to any percent of our revenue.”

A Facebook spokesman Tom Channick added “We take these matters very seriously and respect the feedback from our partners. We’re making real progress keeping hate speech off our platform, and we don’t benefit from this kind of content. But as we’ve said, we make policy changes based on principles, not revenue pressures.”

The campaign – called #StopHateForProfit – was launched on 17 June by a collection of US civil rights groups and also includes corporates such as Ford, Adidas and Coca-Cola.

Last week, Coca-Cola’s chief executive James Quincey said there was “no place for racism on social media” and the company would curb advertising spending on all platforms for a month to review its advertising policies.

Since the start of the boycott, Facebook’s shares have actually lifted 2% to $237.55 at Wednesday’s trading close, although they did dip almost 12% at the end of June before recovering.

Tech giant has 8 million advertisers

The top companies involved in the campaign spent more than $548m (£340m) on Facebook advertising in the US last year, according to a boycott list maintained by the activist group Sleeping Giants and data from the ad analytics firm Pathmatics. The figures excluded Instagram and other services.

However, Facebook has a broad range of advertisers.

The social media group’s $70bn ad business is built on eight million advertisers, most of them are small companies with small marketing budgets, although they are often reliant on Facebook as an essential digital storefront. The 100 largest advertisers on the site account for less than 20% of the group’s total revenue.

Facebook said Zuckerberg plans to meet the civil rights figures spearheading the push to see if a deal can be reached.

No date has been released for this summit, but it comes after at least two previous meetings with Facebook’s vice president of global business solutions Carolyn Everson and its public policy director Neil Potts where no headway was made.

The pair simply repeatedly referred to recent press releases where the company has said it catches 90% of all hate speech on its platform before it is ever reported, according to reports.

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Roger Baird

Roger Baird is News Editor at Finixio. He has worked as a financial journalist for 20 years reporting on companies, capital markets and the UK economy.