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Unilever to pull ads from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook through end of the year

Unilever to pull ads from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook through end of the year
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Unilever, which controls brands including Dove soap and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, announced Friday that it is pulling brand advertisements from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook until "at least" the end of 2020.

The decision was made after several other major companies pulled advertisements from Facebook as part of an advertising boycott called for by the Stop Hate for Profit campaign over allegations that Facebook had not done enough to rein in hateful content, particularly in the wake of protests over the police killing of George Floyd. 

Unilever wrote in a blog post pointed to the “polarized atmosphere in the U.S.,” such as “hate speech” during the run up to the presidential election in November, as being a major contributing factor to pulling brand advertisements.

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“We have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.,” Unilever wrote. “Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society. We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary.”

Instead, the company said it would continue advertising in the U.S. through “shifting to other media” and working with advertising industry forums “to drive action, transparency, clarify policies and create consistency in enforcement.”

“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,” the company wrote. 

The Wall Street Journal was the first to report on Unilever's decision.

Other Unilever brands include Lipton tea, Vaseline, Talenti Gelato and Sorbetto, Degree deodorant and TRESemmé hair products. The company also represents Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, which announced separately earlier this week that it would pull its ads from Facebook and Instagram.

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Facebook, which owns Instagram, pushed back against claims it had not done enough to curb hate speech, though acknowledged more work could be done.

"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 Facebook spokesperson told The Hill in a statement. "We’ve opened ourselves up to a civil rights audit, and we have banned 250 white supremacist organizations from Facebook and Instagram. The investments we have made in AI mean that we find nearly 90 percent of Hate Speech before users report it to us, while a recent EU [European Union] report found Facebook assessed more hate speech reports in 24 hours than Twitter and YouTube."

The spokesperson added that "we know we have more work to do, and we’ll continue to work with civil rights groups, GARM [Global Alliance for Responsible Media], and other experts to develop even more tools, technology and policies to continue this fight."

Sarah Personette, the vice president of Global Client Solutions at Twitter, told The Hill in a statement that the company is “respectful of our partners’ decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.”

“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,” Personette said. “We have developed policies and platform capabilities designed to protect and serve the public conversation, and as always, are committed to amplifying voices from underrepresented communities and marginalized groups.”

Other companies that have announced they are pulling ads from Facebook include Verizon, Patagonia, The North Face and REI in support of the Stop Hate for Profit campaign.

Updated at 1:50 p.m.