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Patagonia
30 June 2020

Patagonia boss, Ryan Gellert, announces advertising boycott of Facebook until it ‘develops a conscience’ and changes its flawed business model which allows ‘hate speech’ to thrive

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today Programme, the global outdoor clothing brand will pause Facebook advertising 'indefinitely'. It is part of a crack-down on 'hate speech and antisemitism' sparked by activists. Patagonia joins North Face, Upwork and REI in a dramatic advertising boycott 

 

Patagonia's boss has revealed the company could stop advertising with Facebook 'indefinitely' if the platform fails to tackle a 'rampant' problem with hate speech, antisemitism and climate denialism.

Ryan Gellert, the outdoor clothing brand's general manager in Europe, today said the tech giant's business model was 'flawed' and had been profiting from hate speech and disinformation.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today Programme: 'They have ultimately got to develop a conscience and they have got to understand that their business model really needs to evolve.' 

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The company joined several US firms to halt advertising spending on Facebook last week over concerns the leading social network has fallen short in efforts to crack down on hateful posts. 

Ryan Gellert (pictured at a panel discussion in May last year), Patagoinia's general manager in Europe, today said the tech giant's business model was 'flawed' and had been profiting from hate speech and disinformation

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Mr Gellert said the platform's 'accuracy on political and voting matters' had to be ensured if Patagonia was to consider reinstating its advertising on Facebook.

'They are not going to stop until they see this impact revenue. I think now more than ever they are endangering human health and weakening our democratic system.'

In a step further than other firms, who agreed to halt spending until the end of July, Mr Gellert revealed that without fundamental change, Patagonia would be suspending its advertising with Facebook 'indefinitely'.

'In the absence of really meaningful change I don't see us returning at the end of July and that could go on indefinitely.'

He said 'incremental change' would not be enough, and suggested Facebook commit to a 'regular third party independent audit'. 

For now Patagonia will 'diversify' its spending on advertising.

Earlier this month Patagonia said on Twitter it was joining the Stop the Hate for Profit initiative unveiled by civil rights activists, who urged brands to boycott the social media giant claiming it 'promotes hate, bigotry, racism, antisemitism and violence'.

'Patagonia is proud to join the Stop Hate for Profit campaign,' the California-based outdoor apparel brand announced Sunday, June 21.

'We will pull all ads on Facebook and Instagram, effective immediately, through at least the end of July, pending meaningful action from the social media giant.'  

‘For too long, Facebook has failed to take sufficient steps to stop the spread of hateful lies and dangerous propaganda on its platform,' a statement from the company reads in part. 

'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.'

Patagonia has a history of not shying away from political discourse. The company sued President Donald Trump in 2017 after he rolled back protections on national monuments.  

The #StopHateForProfit appeal was supported by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, ColorOfChange, FreePress and the activist group Sleeping Giants. 

North Face, also based in California, was the first to join the campaign, tweeting in response to a boycott call: 'We're in. We're Out,' adding later: 'This includes all Facebook owned properties.'

The company subsequently shared a statement with CNN, which read: 'The North Face is halting all activity and U.S. paid advertising with Facebook until stricter policies are put in place to stop racist, violent or hateful content and misinformation from circulating on the platform'. 

The company's commitment to pull their advertising also extends to Instagram - which is owned by Facebook.

CNN reports that the North Face's parent company, VF Corp, has not yet stated whether other brands in its portfolio will also boycott the social media giant.

VF Corp also owns shoe companies Vans and Timberland, and reportedly spent $756 million on advertising in the last year. 

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Upwork said it was 'hitting pause on hate with no Facebook advertising in July.'

REI also joined over the weekend stating: 'For 82 years, we have put people over profits. We're pulling all Facebook/Instagram advertising for the month of July.'

Facebook vice president Carolyn Everson said in a statement: 'We deeply respect any brand's decision, and remain focused on the important work of removing hate speech and providing critical voting information. 

'Our conversations with marketers and civil rights organizations are about how, together, we can be a force for good,' she continued.

The social network said it removed ads by Trump's re-election campaign that contained a symbol used in Nazi Germany for political prisoners, a move welcomed by rights activists.

 

The campaign comes as the social media giant faces growing pressure over its hands-off approach to misinformation and inflammatory posts, including from US President Donald Trump.

'It is clear that Facebook and its CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, are no longer simply negligent, but in fact, complacent in the spread of misinformation, despite the irreversible damage to our democracy,' the NAACP said in a tweet.

The coalition criticized Zuckerberg's decision late last month to leave up a particularly inflammatory post by the Commander-in-chief, which stated in part: 'When the looting starts, the shooting starts'. 

Twitter hid the same message behind a warning that said the post 'incited violence'.

Several Facebook employees staged a 'virtual walkout' over Zuckerberg's decision.

The Facebook co-founder then held a conference call with civil rights leaders who condemned him for failing to remove the post.

In a subsequent statement, Rashad Robinson of Color of Change, Vanita Gupta of the Leadership Conference and Sherrilyn Ifill of LDF said: 'He [Zuckerberg] did not demonstrate understanding of historic or modern-day voter suppression and he refuses to acknowledge how Facebook is facilitating Trump's call for violence against protesters. 

'Mark is setting a very dangerous precedent for other voices who would say similar harmful things on Facebook.'

Color of Change subsequently joined forces with a number of other civil rights group to launch the '#StopHateforProfit' campaign last week, encouraging companies to pull ads from Facebook.

Other organizations in the campaign include the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, Sleeping Giants, Free Press and Common Sense.

The campaign took out a full page ad in the Los Angeles Times pushing for companies to boycott Facebook. The social media giant reportedly made close to $70 billion in ad revenues last year.

'What would you do with $70billion?' the #StopHateForProfit ad asks.

'We know what Facebook did. They allowed incitement to violence against protesters fighting for racial justice in America in the wake of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks and so many others'.

The ad goes on to accuse Facebook of 'turning a blind eye to voter suppression' and 'amplifying white supremacists'.