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Viber and Verizon sever ties with Facebook in growing boycott

Viber pulled all advertising from Facebook and its sister app Instagram

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US PRESS GROUP

The messaging service Viber, the fifth biggest with more than a billion users around the world, is severing all ties to Facebook as part of a growing boycott of the company by commercial partners.

The campaign, initially started in the US after Facebook’s refusal to take action against posts from Donald Trump which critics said incited violence, has now grown to become an international movement.

Viber, owned by the Japanese conglomerate Rakuten, has its largest markets in eastern Europe, south-east Asia, and north Africa, and the company’s chief executive, Djamel Agaoua, said the move to cut ties was prompted by Facebook’s “poor judgment in understanding its role in today’s world”.

On Wednesday, Viber pulled all advertising from Facebook and its sister app Instagram. Now, the company has begun the more labour-intensive process of removing all Facebook technology from Viber’s own apps.

The company uses a number of Facebook tools, Agaoua said. Facebook Connect enables a “login with Facebook” button, common in apps and on websites across the world, while Viber also integrates with Giphy, an animated gif search engine that Facebook bought in May.

“It’s something that will hurt some of our users [who] like to use the Facebook Connect solutions to log in. It’s hurt some of our marketing strategies, because they won’t be able to use Facebook advertising to promote their campaigns. It’s not an easy decision. It’s not going to kill Viber, but it hurts,” Agaoua said.

“We are not the arbiters of truth, but the truth is some people are suffering from the proliferation of violent content and companies must take a clear stand.”

Viber’s decision comes as the advertising boycott which started the movement has also spread internationally. The North Face and Patagonia have both signed up to pull all advertising from the social network for the month of July.

“For too long, Facebook has failed to take sufficient steps to stop the spread of hateful lies and dangerous propaganda on its platform,” a Patagonia spokeswoman said. “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.”

Ben & Jerry’s, the ice-cream brand known for its strong support for social justice, has also pulled its advertising from Facebook. But parent company Unilever, based in the UK, told the Guardian that while it supports Ben & Jerry’s move, it has not yet committed to do the same.

“As a global company, our approach has been and will continue to be to work in partnership to identify issues, offer solutions, and push for meaningful actions,” a spokesperson for Unilever said.

“While we have had some success and recognise the interventions our digital media partners have put in place such as establishing clearer community standards, comprehensive policies, protocols and third party audits, we know there is much more work to be done and we will be working with – and pushing – our partners to deliver the change that is needed.”

Update:

Verizon is pulling advertising from Instagram and Facebook, the biggest name to boycott the company thus far as the movement calling on Facebook to address hate speech grows.

The company said on Thursday it will join other companies in suspending advertising from Facebook-owned platforms until the company “can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable.”

“We have strict content policies in place and have zero tolerance when they are breached, we take action,” Verizon’s chief media officer John Nitti said in a statement. “We’re pausing our advertising until Facebook can create an acceptable solution that makes us comfortable and is consistent with what we’ve done with YouTube and other partners.”

The “Stop Hate for Profit” campaign was launched Wednesday by advocacy groups including the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, and the Color Of Change. It asks advertisers to pressure the tech giant to adopt stricter policies against racist and hateful content on its platforms by pausing all spending on advertising with the company for the month of July.

The advocacy groups argue Facebook has failed to address misinformation and hate speech by making Breitbart News a “trusted news source” despite its history of working with white nationalists and neo-Nazis, allegedy allowing housing discrimination against communities of color, and failing to remove Holocaust denial posts.

The pressure on Facebook to moderate hate speech has accelerated in recent weeks as the platform refused to flag false and incendiary statements from Donald Trump despite moves from rival platform Twitter to do so.

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