Social media companies, led by Facebook, are facing a reckoning over what critics call indefensible excuses for amplifying divisions, hate and misinformation on their platforms.
Kim Kardashian West, Katy Perry and Leonardo DiCaprio are among celebrities taking part in a 24-hour Instagram “freeze” to protest against what they have said is parent company Facebook's failure to tackle violent and hateful content and election misinformation.
They were among the high profile names lending their backing to the “#StopHateforProfit” movement's latest campaign. The movement asks people to put up a message highlighting what they called the damage Facebook does but otherwise refrain from posting on Instagram for a day.
“I can’t sit by and stay silent while these platforms continue to allow the spreading of hate, propaganda and misinformation, created by groups to sow division and split America apart, only to take steps after people are killed,” Kardashian West posted on her Instagram account on Tuesday.
Facebook declined to comment but pointed to recent announcements about what it's doing to limit the reach on its platform of groups that support violence and its efforts to protect the US election in November.
– only to take steps after people are killed. Misinformation shared on social media has a serious impact on our elections and undermines our democracy. Please join me tomorrow when I will be “freezing” my Instagram and FB account to tell Facebook to #StopHateForProfit.— Kim Kardashian West (@KimKardashian) September 15, 2020
Facebook shares slide
With 188 million followers, Kardashian West is one of the most influential people on Instagram and support from her and other big names for the boycott saw Facebook shares slide in aftermarket trading late on Tuesday. They were down 1.3 percent ahead of the market open on Wednesday.
The organisers behind "#StopHateforProfit", including civil rights groups such as the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP and Color Of Change, had previously led a campaign that got hundreds of companies and groups to join a Facebook advertising boycott in July.
Ashton Kutcher, Mark Ruffalo, Kerry Washington, Rosario Dawson, Jamie Foxx and Sacha Baron Cohen were among at least two dozen other Hollywood stars supporting the campaign, the organisers said.
DiCaprio said he was standing with the civil rights groups to call “on all users of Instagram and Facebook to protest the amplification of hate, racism and the undermining of democracy on those platforms”.
Amazing - every hour, more people are joining tomorrow's Instagram freeze to tell Facebook to #StopHateForProfit— Sacha Baron Cohen (@SachaBaronCohen) September 15, 2020
Advertisers, FB employees and users are fed up.
Facebook - stop spreading the hate, lies and conspiracies that inflame our societies!@NAACP@ColorOfChange @ADL pic.twitter.com/lrI8l7SRfY
The company devotes substantial resources to celebrity "partnerships", with dedicated teams handling special requests and giving stars early access to new products, according to two former employees familiar with the operation.
Actress Kerry Washington, known for her role on drama series "Scandal" posted: "It's up to Facebook and other social platforms to stop the amplification of hate and the undermining of democracy."
.@Facebook claims they address #hate, yet they continue to look the other way as racist, violent groups and posts sow division and split America apart – only taking steps after people are killed. And while they share empty talk about voting, they continue allowing blatant lies pic.twitter.com/9aSFprEqXB— ColorOfChange (@ColorOfChange) September 14, 2020
Pressure over upcoming election
Facebook has come under heavy pressure from activists, governments and companies that advertise on its platforms for tougher action on promoting discrimination, hatred or violence.
The company has pointed to its efforts to take down accounts associated with extremist groups and its moves to fight misinformation ahead of the November 3 US presidential election.
Facebook was sharply criticised for its handling of the 2016 presidential election when it failed to restrict disinformation from Russian operatives that spread conspiracy theories and discouraged voting in some cases.
Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg met with coalition organizers in July, but they vowed to continue pushing the ad boycott saying the social media giant had failed to tackle hateful content.