Facebook and Twitter shares dropped on Friday after Unilever, one of the world’s largest advertisers, said it will halt U.S. advertising on both the social platforms through at least the end of the year.
The European consumer-product maker, Unilever, said it took the move to protest the amount of hate speech online. Unilever said the polarized atmosphere in the United States ahead of November’s presidential election placed responsibility on brands to act.
The decision was soon followed by Unilever’s giant brands such as Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap.
Unilever has an annual advertising budget of almost $8 billion, and it said it will not spend it on Facebook, Twitter and Facebook-owned Instagram for the remaining year.
“Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society,” Unilever said in a statement.
Shares of both Facebook fell 8.32 per cent to $216.08 on NASDAQ while Twitter shares dropped to 7.4 per cent to $29.05 on the NYSE following Unilever’s announcement.
The company, which is based in the Netherlands and Britain, joins a raft of other advertisers pulling back from online platforms. Facebook, in particular, has been the target of an escalating movement to withhold advertising dollars to pressure it to do more to prevent racist and violent content from being shared on its platform.
“We have decided that starting now through at least the end of the year, we will not run brand advertising in social media newsfeed platforms Facebook, Instagram and Twitter in the U.S.,” Unilever said. Continuing to advertise on these platforms at this time would not add value to people and society.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. On Thursday, Verizon joined others in the Facebook boycott.
Sarah Personette, vice president of global client solutions at Twitter, said the company’s mission is to serve the public conversation and ensure Twitter is a place where people can make human connections, seek and receive authentic and credible information, and express themselves freely and safely.
She added that Twitter is “respectful of our partners’ decisions and will continue to work and communicate closely with them during this time.