Ford joins growing corporate boycott, halts all US social media advertising

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co. has joined the growing roster of corporations that are using their advertising dollars to send a message to social media platforms where hate speech and the spread of false information often go unchecked.

The Dearborn automaker confirmed Monday that it is halting all social media advertising in the U.S. for 30 days "to re-evaluate our presence on these platforms."

In recent days, amid ongoing nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality spurred by George Floyd's death while being arrested by Minneapolis police, dozens of major companies around the world have stopped advertising on social media platforms. Civil rights organizations, including the NAACP and Anti-Defamation League, launched a "Stop Hate for Profit" campaign asking companies to halt advertising on Facebook for the month of July, saying the social media giant has not done enough to monitor harmful content.

"We know what Facebook did," a statement on Stop Hate for Profit's website reads. "They  allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of (the deaths of) George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony  McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and  so many others. ... Could they protect and support Black users? Could they call out Holocaust denial as hate? Could they help get out the vote? They absolutely could. But they are actively choosing not to do so."

The Associated Press reported Sunday that Starbucks Corp. was pausing its social media advertising. Participants in the boycott include Unilever, a major multinational consumer-goods company that is behind brands such as Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream and Dove soap; Coca-Cola; and Verizon.

Well-known retail brands such as Eddie Bauer, Patagonia and lululemon are also among the participants. The AP reported that some companies are halting ads only on Facebook, while others have stopped advertising on all social media platforms. Some have aligned themselves with #StopHateforProfit, while others have shied away from directly associating themselves with the campaign.

Honda Motor Co. is also participating in the boycott.

In a statement, a Ford spokesman said: "The existence of content that includes hate speech, violence and racial injustice on social platforms needs to be eradicated. We are actively engaged with industry initiatives led by the Association of National Advertisers to drive more accountability, transparency and trusted measurement to clean up the digital and social media ecosystem."

General Motors Co. does not seem to have gone as far as boycotting social media platforms, as of Monday. The automaker said in a statement that as it "work(s) to eliminate injustice and drive inclusion, we are reviewing and reinforcing our strict marketing guidelines that ensure our brands are never associated with content that is hateful or harmful."

"When we have concerns, our approach is to engage our advertising partners directly and privately and work to find solutions," a GM spokesman said.

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles NV did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Twitter: @JGrzelewski