Campaigners force Facebook rethink

30 May 2013

MENLO PARK: Facebook is to review how it deals with offensive content, following the withdrawal of ads on the site by brands such as Nissan, the carmaker, and Nationwide, the building society.

The move follows vociferous complaints from campaigners who protested about the existence of Facebook pages that glorified violence against women and called on companies to stop their advertising if it had been placed alongside such content.

Such placements are made possible by targeted advertising techniques that identify individuals who are likely to buy a product and then automatically place ads for that product on whatever page they visit.

"We thought that advertisers would be the most effective way of getting Facebook's attention," Jaclyn Friedman, the executive director of Women, Action and the Media, told the New York Times.

"We had no idea that it would blow up this big," she continued. "I think people have been frustrated with this issue for so long and feeling like that had no way for Facebook to pay attention to them. As consumers we do have a lot of power."

Facebook acknowledged in a blog post that its "systems to identify and remove hate speech have failed to work as effectively as we would like, particularly around issues of gender-based hate".

The company said it would review how it dealt with such offensive content and would be updating training for staff on its moderation teams as well as demanding that users creating content employ their real identities.

But some advertisers remain concerned that ads could appear next to offensive content before moderators have taken action and have requested technological solutions to ensure that their ads do not appear next to such material.

"I think advertisers have a responsibility to consumers and media companies have a responsibility to advertisers to make sure they control the content on those sites," said Stacy Janicki, a senior partner at advertising agency Carmichael Lynch.

"That's the power and the curse of social media," she added. "You can put anything on there, but the benefit is that you can elevate it and scale it to where advertisers will listen and ultimately Facebook will listen."

Data sourced from New York Times, Financial Times; additional material by Warc stafF