Concern about the role of social media platforms in spreading disinformation and harmful content is drawing the attention of leading marketers during Lions Live.

Long-simmering concerns about inaccurate, inflammatory and offensive content spreading online have come into sharper focus for marketers in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ongoing political turmoil, and the recent movements for racial justice in the US.

Black Lives Matter

This article is part of an ongoing WARC series focused on educating brand marketers on diversity and activism, in light of the recent progressive steps made with the Black Lives Matter movement.

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Now, some brands are starting to take a stand against the social media giants. In the last two weeks, marketers including Patagonia and The North Face, the outdoor-goods manufacturers, and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream have withdrawn spending from Facebook or Instagram (which is owned by Facebook).

In a statement announcing its decision to halt spending on Facebook, Ben & Jerry’s – which is owned by Unilever – called for the company to “take stronger action to stop its platforms from being used to divide our nation, suppress voters, foment and fan the flames of racism and violence, and undermine our democracy.”

In an interview at Lions Live, a virtual event held by Cannes Lions, a sister company of WARC, Tamara Rogers, chief marketing officer for healthcare giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), suggested “the Facebook [issue] is a real challenge” that every marketer is facing.

While she noted that Facebook was working “extremely hard” to allay any concerns, the situation is a complex and multi-faceted one.

“At some point, [if] the tipping point has got to the point where by being associated with something you're seen to somehow be in a negative space, then we need to make sure that we are looking after our brands. Because our brands serve all people, it’s so important to make sure that we're doing the right things,” Rogers said.

Many brands celebrated Juneteeth this year as part of their response to the Black Lives Matter movement. On its part, GSK made the decision to pull its marketing assets on this date – which commemorates the end of American slavery – from Facebook, Rogers revealed.

“Now, we're in active dialogue with Facebook to try and determine how we make sure that we do the right thing. This is a very important ecosystem that we live in, whether it's partners – like Facebook or Google – or whether it's our advertising agencies,” she said.

“Together, we need to solve this, because together we know that we can really make a powerful difference. We've got to have that open dialogue and make sure that we're doing the right thing for that eco-system, but also for our brands.”

Sourced from WARC and The Independent