The meaning of what Zuck said: The changes have been in process for months, Zuckerberg said, and anticipated some of them in May. But there is no discussion that your ad is coming at a useful time for Facebook. Complaints about his civil rights record have been building for years, and recently peaked around Facebook’s decision in late May to leave a post by President Trump that used the racially charged phrase “when the looting, shooting begins “to discuss Black Lives Matter protesters.
Those complaints recently came together in an attempt by major civil rights organizations like the NAACP and progressive activists like the Sleeping Giants group to convince advertisers to boycott Facebook during the month of July. After a slow start, that effort seemed gain traction this week. The multinational consumer products giant Unilever announced hours before Zuckerberg’s comments that it would stop advertising on both Facebook and Twitter until the end of the year. Others who are temporarily withdrawing the ads include wireless service provider Verizon, ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s and clothing maker Eddie Bauer.
The importance of where he said it: Zuckerberg opened his city hall of regular employees to the public to announce the changes, reflecting his new will to include the company and himself in the mix of the country’s most controversial debates.
Whats Next: Boycott organizers have set July 1, or within five days, as a starting point for advertisers to pause their use of Facebook. The question is whether Facebook’s movements today and in the coming week will do anything to curb its momentum.
The president of one of the groups behind the boycott, Rashad Robinson of Color of Change, said quickly after Zuckerberg concluded that his announcement had changed little. “Zuckerberg’s management was an 11-minute wasted opportunity to commit to change,” Robinson tweeted. “I hope the companies that advertise on Facebook are watching: if they want to put their money where it is in the mouth of racial justice, then it is time for #StopHateForProfit,” he added, using the hashtag for the boycott campaign.
Robinson’s tweet is particularly striking because he has been in close contact with Facebook over the years, including a dinner at Zuckerberg’s house in November 2019. His sharpness reflects that he and at least some other civil rights leaders have changed their strategy when dealing with Facebook. If they haven’t completely given up on dialogue, at least they now combine it with treating the company as something akin to a political opponent.
That said, right now, Facebook’s most immediate concern is advertisers. Facebook’s revenue is almost entirely dependent on advertising, so the reaction to consider now: the results of quiet conversations between CEOs, marketing managers, and other corporate executives about what they think about Facebook.