‘Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Virtue-signaling companies Facebook and Twitter got a taste of their own medicine Friday after household goods company Unilever pulled all its advertising for the remainder of the year.
The news caused the social-media giants to drop 7% in trading, reported the Wall Street Journal.
The company said in a statement that the purpose was to avoid taking sides in an increasingly acrimonious fray over how much license the sites have to regulate political speech on their platforms.
“Given our Responsibility Framework and the polarized atmosphere in the U.S., 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 said in a statement.
“Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society,” it continued. “We will be monitoring ongoing and will revisit our current position if necessary.”
Tensions escalated after Twitter, facing a leftist pressure campaign, began contextualizing President Donald Trump’s tweets with “fact checks,” some of which have been criticized for themselves spreading misleading information.
Regardless, most of the fact-checks promote a discernibly leftist agenda—something the companies have long been criticized for.
In response, Trump issued an executive order that reaffirmed Section 230 of the 1996 Communications Decency Act, saying content aggregators like the two social media platforms were only protected from liability if they refrained from excessive moderation of political speech.
In one of the first tests of the policy, Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., advanced a libel lawsuit that named Twitter in several offensive satire accounts under his name. However, a Virginia judge refused to support Nunes’s argument.
Despite a difficult week, which included the release of two watchdog videos from whistleblowers disclosing systemic bias in its content-moderation practices, Facebook announced on Friday that it, too, would be starting to label the posts of Trump and others that violated its arbitrary community guidelines.
Meanwhile, Twitter took a hit as it faced direct competition from an emerging conservative alternative, Parler, which rocketed to the No. 1 spot in app downloads late this week after prominent figures including Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Ted Cruz of Texas expressed their support.
Although Unilever’s withdrawal of advertising might appear to be yet another minor victory, however, in the politically-correct mob assault on conservative speech and ideas, it may be a pyrrhic one.
Rather than advocating for a greater support of First Amendment expression, the London-based company—with brands including Dove soap and Axe body spray—criticized the social media sites for allowing too much “hate speech” to seep through.
“Based on the current polarization and the election that we are having in the US, there needs to be much more enforcement in the area of hate speech,” Luis Di Como, Unilever’s executive vice president of global media, told the Journal in an interview.
Because there is no legal standard for what constitutes “hate speech” under US law, which historically has opted to err on the side of allowing rather than constraining controversial opinions, demands for greater censorship pose a slippery slope when left to the discretion of the already unreliable Silicon Valley arbiters.
Ironically, Facebook had come under fire a week ago for refusing to run an ad submitted and paid for by the Trump Campaign that it claimed promoted hate speech for using an upside-down, red triangle.
Although it is not included in a frequently cited database of hate symbols compiled by the Anti-Defamation League, Facebook said that the symbol had been used by Nazi Germany concentration camps during World War II to represent political dissidents.
The Trump campaign said the ad, which criticized far-left domestic terrorism group Antifa, had used it because the group—short for “anti-fascist”—had itself appropriated the symbol previously.