As Facebook and other social platforms come under increasing scrutiny from governments and regulators over the content they carry, a leading industry figure argues that advertisers too have a “moral responsibility” to act.

Speaking to WARC this summer, WFA chief executive officer, Stephan Loerke cited the mass shootings in a New Zealand mosque in early 2019 – where more than 50 Muslim worshippers were shot dead by a white supremacist while footage was streamed on Facebook Live – as a watershed moment.

The marketing community felt it simply could not sit by in the face of such an atrocity, and demanded action from the platforms. “That’s where I could sense in our membership as a significant change of perspective on what this meant,” Loerke said. (For more, read the interview in full: Voice, brand safety, measurement among top brand priorities, says WFA CEO.)

“This is not a brand safety issue anymore,” he stated. “The question you need to be asking yourself as brand owner is, what is your responsibility? Even if no brand was actually present in that live stream, the platforms which have enabled it are funded 95% by brands. Therefore, you have responsibility.”

The Global Alliance for Responsible Media, a partnership between a number of trade bodies, powerful brands and agency holding groups, was developed in the following months to use their “collective power to significantly improve the health of the media ecosystem” and “to identify specific collaborative actions, processes and protocols for protecting consumers and brands from safety issues”. Significantly, both Google – the owner of YouTube – and Facebook are also directly involved in the initiative.

In Loerke’s view, brands now want to work collectively on finding a solution to dangerous online content: “working individually is not going to fix anything,” he said. The Association of New Zealand Advertisers (ANZA) had compellingly made that argument, he added, calling the impact of the shootings a “turning point”.

“We brand owners have a responsibility. It may not be a brand safety issue, but we have a moral responsibility. We will want to do that collaboratively with the platforms.

“Now this alliance exists, the terms of reference exist, and we want to be getting this going. We will be reporting back on whether we make progress on that. The option of ‘not making progress’ is not an option for us.”

Sourced from WARC