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Leon Kaye headshot

Outdoor Companies Leave Facebook Out in the Cold

By Leon Kaye

One reason why Facebook has seen its market capitalization surge close to $250 billion is its robust advertising options. For brands, advertising opportunities on the social network are a dream. Micro-targeting. Benign messages hidden in posts that blended into users’ feeds. A sense of community. Unrivaled bang for a buck.

That dream, however, has turned into a nightmare as Facebook became inundated with accusations that it has morphed into a digital font of lies and misinformation. Whether the company became the target of yet another Joe Scarborough rant on MSNBC (fast forward to 3:55) or heated criticism from Black Lives Matter activists, more brands are viewing Facebook not as an asset but, at a bare minimum, as a headache.

Outdoor brands including The North Face, Patagonia and REI have indicated they’re not having it. Other companies reportedly sharing this sentiment are Upwork, Dashlane and Magnolia Pictures.

These outdoor brands have joined the Stop Hate for Profit campaign launched last week by a coalition of nonprofits with such headliners as the Anti-Defamation League, Common Sense Media, the NAACP and Sleeping Giants.

The campaign accuses of Facebook of continuing what it describes as racist practices enabled by the company’s estimated $70 billion in annual revenues from corporations advertising on such platforms as Instagram. Stop Hate for Profit is urging brands to send Facebook’s C-suite a message that “enough is enough” when it comes to the company amplifying messages about voter suppression, the silence of Black voices, and any posts that express hate, bias and discrimination.

To drive that message home, these nonprofits have asked brands to speak with their advertising budgets by pulling the plug on any Facebook advertising spend during July.

The forces behind Stop Hate for Profit are still encouraging companies to continue to post messages on their Facebook pages and Instagram profiles about their support of Black citizens, creators and businesses. They also urge brands to make it known why they’ve halted paid campaigns on the company’s platforms.

“With calls across the world demanding justice for Black people in America, Facebook’s failure to protect and support Black users has never been clearer,” said Stop Hate for Profit’s organizers. “Losing ad revenue for one month may cause Facebook to reconsider how it has ignored the demands of Black users and civil rights organizations.”

Patagonia made it known that it’s on board.

“For too long, Facebook has failed to take sufficient steps to stop the spread of hateful lies and dangerous propaganda on its platform,” said the company’s head of marketing, Cory Bayers. “From secure elections to a global pandemic to racial justice, the stakes are too high to sit back and let the company continue to be complicit in spreading disinformation and fomenting fear and hatred.”

Critics may counter that stopping spend on Facebook for only a month doesn’t go far enough. Judging by comments on the Facebook pages of REI and The North Face, the reactions are predictably all over the map. And these brands do have some work to do when it comes to race: The outdoors industry is about as white as the snow-capped peaks shown on many of its companies' advertisements.

But as with any campaign, there has to be a long game, and independent journalist Judd Legum nailed it: “Even if the campaign only succeeds in slowing down Facebook's revenue growth, that could depress the price of its stock,” Legum wrote earlier today.

That leaning in would get the attention of Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg.

Image credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye